Bernard Bosanquet (philosopher)

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Bernard Bosanquet.

Bernard Bosanquet (/ˈbzənˌkɛt, -kɪt/; 14 June or 14 July 1848, Rock Hall near Alnwick – 8 February 1923, London) was an English philosopher and political theorist, and an influential figure on matters of political and social policy in late 19th and early 20th century Britain. His work influenced – but was later subject to criticism by – many thinkers, notably Bertrand Russell, John Dewey and William James. Bernard was the husband of Charity Organisation Society leader Helen Bosanquet.

He was educated at Harrow School and Balliol College, Oxford. After graduation, he was elected to a Fellowship at University College, Oxford, but resigned it in order to devote himself to philosophical research. He moved to London in 1881, where he became an active member of the London Ethical Society and the Charity Organisation Society. Both were positive demonstrations of Bosanquet's ethical philosophy. Bosanquet published on a wide range of topics, such as logic, metaphysics, aesthetics and politics. In his metaphysics, he is regarded as a key representative (with F.H. Bradley) of Absolute Idealism, although it is a term that he abandoned in favour of "speculative philosophy."

Bosanquet was one of the leaders of the so-called neo-Hegelian philosophical movement in Great Britain. He was strongly influenced by the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, but also by the German philosophers Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Among his best-known works are The Philosophical Theory of the State (1899; 4th ed. 1923), and his Gifford lectures, The Principle of Individuality and Value and The Value and Destiny of the Individual published 1912 and 1913 respectively.

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1894 to 1898.

Idealist social theory

In his Encyclopedia, Section 95, Hegel had written about "the ideality of the finite." This obscure, seemingly meaningless, phrase was interpreted as implying that "what is finite is not real"1 because the ideal is understood as being the opposite of the real. Bosanquet was a follower of Hegel and the "…central theme of Bosanquet's idealism was that every finite existence necessarily transcends itself and points toward other existences and finally to the whole. Thus, he advocated a system very close to that in which Hegel had argued for the ideality of the finite."1 The relation of the finite individual to the whole state in which he/she lives was investigated in Bosanquet's Philosophical Theory of the State (London, 1899). In this book, he "…argued that the state is the real individual and that individual persons are unreal by comparison with it."1 But Bosanquet did not think that the state has a right to impose socialist control over its individual citizens. "On the contrary, he believed that if society is organic and individual, then its elements can cooperate apart from a centralised organ of control, the need for which presupposes that harmony has to be imposed upon something that is naturally unharmonious."1

References

  1. ^ a b c d The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 3, "Idealism", New York, 1967

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