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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: February 2013

10 - Personal idealism: from Ward to McTaggart

from IV - British idealism


Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison was the co-editor, with R. B. Haldane, of Essays in Philosophical Criticism (Seth & Haldane 1883), one of the foundational texts for Hegelian absolute idealism in British philosophy. Yet, four years later he would publish Hegelianism and Personality, an objection to absolutism on the grounds that it presents an insufficient treatment of the personal, thus giving birth to personal idealism. Pringle-Pattison claimed that the unification of consciousness in a single self was the radical error of both Hegelianism and the allied English doctrine of absolute idealism: “I have a centre of my own – a will of my own – which no one shares with me or can share, a centre which I maintain even in my dealings with God himself” (1887: 217).

Despite introducing personal idealism, Pringle-Pattison would distance himself from subsequent personal idealists, such as Ward and McTaggart, whom he regarded as putting too much emphasis on the personal and eventually putting God at risk. For Pringle-Pattison, reality must still be considered as a single rational whole. Nature, man and God form an organic whole, and none of these factors can be considered in isolation. Individual personalities are still incarnations of the Absolute, which, in turn, is God's eternal manifestation.Pringle-Pattison's views are perhaps better seen as a “halfway” house between absolute and personal idealism, which G. Watts Cunningham (1933) called “Personalistic Absolutism”.

Personal idealism is an important, under-studied part of the history of British philosophy and was important for the development of emergentism, in the work of Conwy Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander, as well as for process philosophy in Whitehead, George Santayana and George Herbert Mead.

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  • Online ISBN: 9781844654765
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