Becoming Green
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Victorian Studies 48.3 (2006) 488-504

Becoming Green
Reviewed by
Andrew Vincent
University of Sheffield

The following books are under consideration in this review:

Perfectionism and the Common Good: Themes in the Philosophy of T. H. Green, by David O. Brink; pp. xiv + 139. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003. £22.00, $50.00.
Prolegomena to Ethics, by T. H. Green, edited by David O. Brink; pp. cl + 477. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003. £22.00, $39.95.
Scottish Idealists: Selected Philosophical Writings, edited by David Boucher; pp. 201. Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic, 2004. £12.95, $25.90.
T. H. Green and the Development of Ethical Socialism, by Matt Carter; pp. x + 233. Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic, 2003. £25.00, $49.50.
T. H. Green's Theory of Positive Freedom, by Ben Wempe; pp. 240. Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic, 2004. £25.00, $49.50.
The Greenian Moment: T. H. Green, Religion and Political Argument in Victorian Britain, by Denys P. Leighton; pp. 376. Exeter and Charlottesville: Imprint Academic, 2004. £25.00, $49.50.

British Idealism began to establish its roots in the Scottish universities, at Oxford, and to a lesser extent at Cambridge during the middle of the nineteenth century. Through the writings and personal influence of such exponents as Edward Caird, T. H. Green, F. H. Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, Henry Jones, Andrew Seth Pringle Pattison, D. G. Ritchie, J. S. Mackenzie, William Wallace, W. R. Sorley, J. M. E. McTaggart, and John Watson, Idealism rapidly became a prevailing philosophy up to 1914, when its fundamental doctrines began to be challenged by philosophers such as John Cook Wilson, G. E. Moore, and Bertrand Russell. From this time forward, the march of Idealism was hindered, and by the end of the First World War it was in [End Page 488] partial retreat. During this period of their greatest influence, however, the British Idealists managed to spread their doctrines in the whole English-speaking world. In what follows, I will describe the influence of Idealists on philosophy in the English-speaking world and outline the tenets of this philosophy (especially in the context of Green's work), before turning to a review of recent studies centered on Green.

In the past, commentators have tended not to notice the preponderance of Scottish philosophers among the British Idealists: while discussion has usually focused on the Oxford Idealists, a better denotation would be the British Idealists. It is well worth underlining this point, particularly since one of the books under review—that edited by David Boucher—offers a valuable selection from the Scottish Idealists. J. H. Muirhead, James Ferrier, D. G. Ritchie, Edward Caird, John Caird, J. H. Stirling, William Paton Ker, Henry Jones, R. B. Haldane, William Mitchell, and Andrew Seth Pringle Pattison, among others, were all Scottish (or Welsh in the case of Jones, although his teaching career was at Glasgow).

The impact of the British Idealists was more far-reaching than just the British Isles. In response to the growing demand for university teachers following the founding of new institutions throughout England and Wales, as well as in the British colonies and the United States, the pupils of many of the first generation British Idealists filled these positions and became the vehicles through which Idealism colonized Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, South Africa, and the United States. Even when newer philosophical movements arose in the English-speaking world during the 1930s and 1940s, it was often the case that they were grounded in Idealism. The influential Australian philosopher John Anderson, for example, whose name subsequently became synonymous with Australian Realism, was Scottish in origin and trained in philosophy by Jones at Glasgow University. Indeed, as late as 1941, Anderson still lectured extensively on Green at Sydney University, exerting a strong personal influence on a number of students, not least the Australian philosopher John Passmore and the political theorist Eugene Kamenka. Anderson's elder brother William also learned from Jones at Glasgow and became professor of philosophy at Auckland University College, New Zealand, in 1921. He expressed himself in the language and style of...