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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 11, 1998

Modern Philosophy

William Sweet
Pages 175-182

Bosanquet, Culture, and the Influence of Idealist Logic

I discuss some of the features of the analysis of culture provided by the Britist idealist philosopher, Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923). It has been suggested that Bosanquet's philosophical views, especially on topics related to culture, were determined by the 'absolutist' metaphysics he inherited from Hegel and F. H. Bradley, and that one can see a shift in his work from an early humanism, contemporary with his studies in logic, to a late anti-humanism. I argue that this account is problematic, that Bosanquet's discussion of cultural phenomena in fact consistently reflected principles present in his logic, and that these were articulated long before his explicitly absolutist metaphysical views. Specifically, I briefly outline three elements constitutive of a discussion of culture — aesthetics, religion and social life — and show how Bosanquet's account of each of them displays characteristics that are typically found in his logic. Since Bosanquet never abandoned the idealist logic of his youth — indeed, he wrote on the topic throughout his philosophical career — there is reason to doubt that he ever gave up the humanist values associated with them. This, I conclude, obliges us to reevaluate the standard assessments of Bosanquet's philosophy.

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