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    Hume and Locke. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968).Pp. xxi, 371. $2.45.

    Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation. (Ann Arbor: TheUniversity of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1967).Pp. xxxvi, 252..$2.25.

    Prolegomena to Ethics. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company,1969). Pp. lvii, 427. $2.95.

    The political philosophy of Thomas Hill Green is of historical1 importance because it was influential in establishing the Idealist

    movement at the University of Oxford, and that movement ultimate-ly came to dominate English university education. Melvin Richterwrites that because of Green the universities of England, Scotlandand Wales were on the whole Idealist in their teaching of philos-ophy."' Anyone who is familiar with the English, and has studiedIdealist philosophy, anyone, that is, who has attempted to digest theponderous prose of Green in addition to the Phenomenologie desGeistes and Wissenschaft der Logik of Hegel, the principal works ofKant, and the discourses of Fichte, will find this an almost unachiev


    able accomplishment. Yet there must be some truth in Richter'sclaims. Even today English political philosophers feel it necessary toreject Bosanquet or Hegel before getting on with their immediatetasks which they interpret are conscious advances beyond a mor-ibund Idealism.

    There was undoubtedly some measure of success of philosophicIdealism, and this has to a great degree been attributed to Green.But there was a greater success of political "idealism," a movementwhich we in the United States would recognize as a form of "Liberal-ism," and of this movement Green became the patron saint, muchas John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt are considered pa-tron saints of contemporary Liberalism. It is this lower case "ideal-ism" which Mulford Q. Sibley has indicated is reflected today in theLiberalism of such contemporary American political figures as Ches

    ? Melvin Richter, The Politics of Conscience: T. H. Green and His Age (Cam-bridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964), 294.


    ter Bowles and Eugene McCarthy. 2 The "new" Liberalism which wein America associate with the Democratic Party, was greatly assistedin its transition from the "old" Liberalism of the Manchester Schoolof Economics and the individualistic psychology of Locke and Mill byT. H. Green's thought. Green gave to Nineteenth Century Liberalswhat Liberalism today is lacking: a consistent view of politics, na-ture, society, and history, in short a view of order. He took this viewfrom a very unliberal tradition, but he was sensitive to strains of lib-eralism which have much in common with more authoritarian poli -

    tics. About this aspect of Green's thought Mulford Q. Sibley haswritten that Green maintained the individualism of English Liberal-ism while showing that individualism is dependent on organicre-lations with the group." 3

    T. H. Green was born in 1836 and died in 1882 at the age of forty-five. His works were almost entirely posthumously published. Hisstyle of writing, closely wedded to textual analysis, seldom carriesthe reader to brilliant insights, but rather plods along in a web ofmeticulous detail which can exhaust even the most devoted scholar.Green's works are not hastily devoured by those who consider politi-cal theory their hobby: And those who by inclination or professioncommence to read his works must be motivated by an interest ofsome specialized cast. Yet Green should be more widely read becausehe symbolized the crystallization of three simultaneous developmentsin English intellectual culture. The first development was the rejec-tion in England of the empiricist utilitarian tradition, a negativemovement which commenced with Coleridge, erupted in the out-pouringsof Carlyle, and culminated in Green's critique of Lockeand Hume. The second development was religious. Early Nine-teenth Century intellectuals could only with difficulty accept thedogma and teachings of the Christian churches into which they wereborn, and found it necessary to replace what they rejected with thatwhich they could accept. Newman turned to Rome, Carlyle to his-tory and literature. Green found his religion in philosophy. Thethird movement was social. It was not enough, men of Green's stampbelieved, to master an intellectual discipline and transmit that dis-cipline to the next generation. There were important and neces-sary things to be done in society itself. Massive social problems were

    ' Mulford Q. Sibley, Political Ideas and Ideologies: A History of PoliticalThought (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970), 500.8

    Ibid., 499.


    present to remind them of their obligation for the welfare of theirfellow men. Green 's own busy political schedule was representative ofthis. In 1876 he was elected to the Oxford town council and throughhis devotion to the movement to abolish alcoholic beverages he be-came Vice President of the United Kingdom Alliance, established acoffee tavern, and became President of the Oxford Board of HopeTemperance Union. 4

    His development which reflects these intellectual elements canbe traced in three of his works: his critique of Locke and Hume, thelectures on the principles of political obligation, and the Prolego-mena to Ethics. A review of these works and the problems of politicalorder they represent will constitute the subject of this essay.

    Green's strength as a scholar first appeared in two excellent es-says, The Philosophy of Aristotle," and "Popular Philosophy in ItsRelation to Life," both published in the North British Review in 1866and 1868 respectively. The former is the most abstruse and yet themost characteristic of his works. Ostensibly a review of Sir AlexanderGrant's edition of the Ethics, there is very little commentary andmuch argument of his own thesis that God is in us as our thought,and we are the means by which the divine is in development. This isnot offered as Aristotle's thought because Green indicates his aware-ness of the partial similarity of his thesis to the immoral heresies ofearly Christendom." Aristotle is for him the necessary beginningpoint for any Idealist metaphysics, the creator of the vocabulary andthe method of analysis from which a true metaphysics must begin.This essay is only the beginning of Green's thought, but because itdoes contain the nucleus of his mature reflections it is important tonote that Green is aware of the points at which his own metaphysicsbears a similarity to Christian heresies. The difficulty he confrontshere, and which he never resolves, is the distinction between meta-physics and religion. There is evidence, as we shall see, which in-dicates that Green could not solve the difficulty, and in fact for himphilosophy was religion.

    ' This biographical information is found in R. L. Nettleship's "Memoir" inThomas Hill Green, Works of Thomas Hill Green, R. L. Nettleship, ed., 3 vols.(London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1891-1894), 3:xi-clxi (further refer-ences to this edition cited as Green, Works).

    5 Green, Works, 3:86.:


    The essay, "Popular Philosophy in Its Relation to Life," is lessdifficult and perhaps a more positive contribution. Green argues thatjust as the Sophistic subjection of philosophy to rhetoric survived thecriticism of Plato and Aristotle, so it is not surprising that Locke andHume still survive in popular consciousness after their criticism byKant. Nevertheless, he is concerned for the consequence of theirinfluence. If, as Hume argued, virtue is ultimately traceable only tothe impression of pleasure, and vice that of pain, then no act can ofitself be said to be virtuous. Moreover, if feeling represents nothingbeyond itself, then the public dimension of such moral acts as dutyis lost. How, he asks, can Hume explain or account for those un-pleasant deeds which we perform out of a sense of obligation? Trac-ing Hume's reasoning to its logical conclusion in public attitudes,Green sees it in the modern conviction that moral obligation isreducible to self-satisfaction. In opposition to such attitudes, Greensaw three influences seeking to moderate the moral anarchy whichwas the product of the Enlightenment: Burke,Kant, and Wordsworth.

    Between 1868, the date of the publication of his essay on "Popu-lar Philosophy and 1874, when he published two "Introductions"to a new edition of Hume's works, he lectured on English philosophy.More than any other influence, Green's own lecture experienceformed the character of his published works. He seems to have usedthe obligation to lecture as a dry run for the research and writingthat would go into his published works. For that reason, his works al-ways contain sustained analyses of the principal texts dealing withhis subject. There are few textual critiques of Hobbes, Locke, andRousseau better than Green's own study of political obligation. Thesame quality of scholarship is sustained in his lectures on Kant, Mill,and Spencer.

    Green's "Introductions" were written for a four-volume editionof Hume's philosophical works which Green co-edited with T. H.Grose. The first of the "Introductions" appeared in volume onewhich contained Book I of Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. Thesecond and smaller of the two appeared in volume two which con-tained Books II and III of the Treatise. Apparently, he decided thatthe best way to gain an audience for his own massive criticism ofempiricism was to publish a new edition of Hume's works. Green sessays were not labors of love. It has been said that his purpose inthe two "Introductions" was not to praise Hume, but to bury him.Green apparently had a large spade for the digging of Hume 's in-


    tellectual grave because nearly one half of the "Introductions" isdevoted to John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding.Anyone who has choked at Locke's inconsistencies, and not seen inthem some form of secret writing, will appreciate Green's effort todisplay Locke's weaknesses to the world. That accomplished, Humeis seen to have taken absurd propositions to their equally absurdlogical conclusions. In the main, however, the "Introductions" areinstructive because they show the capacity of Idealism to do combatwith its philosophical opposite.

    The "Introductions are not easy reading because of their nec-essarily critical nature. But also Green's manner of discussion doesnot follow the development of Locke's Essay, it is not a line by linecritique. Green's method is to deal with the principal concepts ofLocke, to question them for consistent explication, and then to chal-lenge them with his own concepts. The outcome is a particularly dif-ficult and grueling essay demanding one's total attention. And yetsome of the most difficult passages are not the passages in whichGreen engaged in critical disquisition, they are the passages in whichhe chose to inform his readers of his own views, often without expli-cation. The following excursus will, perhaps, illustrate this point.

    To Locke the idea of body was derived from `actually presentsensation,' " physical experiences which literally produce their con-ceptualization (I.111).6 But Green held the opposite, that the ideaof bocly is not derivative of "a succession of sensations in time," it isdependent rather on the conception that order is, what Green wouldelsewhere in the "Introductions" call an "order of nature" (I.64).Though we are conscious of this order by experience of its parts,in a "piecemeal" fashion, each element is so interrelated in the "in-tellectual order'' or "mind" of which reality is, that "every element,being correlative to every other, at once presupposes and is presup-posed by every other.:.." (I.111). Green is perhaps offering a lions-tic view characteristic of some contemporary schools of phenomen-ology. Yet he was of a mind to attempt to go beyond the clarificationor description of experience of knowledge, which he understood wasa "process from the more abstract to the more concrete" (I.40), tomake of it a substance more than human. Knowledge was for Green,

    To facilitate the reading, all references to Green 's texts, with the exception ofGreen, Works, will be cited in the essay by paragraphs. Thomas Hill Green, Humeand Locke ( New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968). Roman numeralsrefer to Introductions I and II.


    and all absolute Idealists, the phenomenal presence of God in man.Knowledge was possible, he thought, "as : the progressive actualisa-tion in, us of a self-consciousness in itself complete, and which inits completeness includes the world as its object" (I.152). Since theworld is composed of matter, however, how could consciousness con-sist of matter? If matter and mind are perceived as being incom-patible, he wrote, it can be attributed to the reality of our emer-gence from nature. This emergence effectively limits our capacity tounderstand that the incompatibility we may see is actually a "neces-sary illusion" from which we will be freed when we know the"source of illusion" (I.152). At points like these in Green's develop-ment of his argument it is not uncommon for his readers to wonderwhether he has left something out of his discussion vital to theirunderstanding of his thought. In truth Green did leave somethingout. Discussions like the one above assume the reader's familiaritywith German Idealists for whom human knowledge is of interestonly insofar as its understanding leads us to perceive that it is inactuality a part of the greater whole of the mind of God.

    What is immediately apparent from this excursus is both the in-compatibility of the views of Hume and Locke with Green's thought,and to those who are familiar with German Idealism, the unmistak-able influence of critical and absolute Idealism. In the light of this, itis almost natural that Green would turn Locke on his head and as -

    sert the primacy of mind over physical experience. Indeed in histypical undeveloped manner Green asserted that "Thought" is thewhole of reality (I.227). Locke on the other hand would commencewith sense experience, and on that precarious foundation deal withthe philosophical concepts of nature, substance, and mind. Lockespeaks in Book II, Chapter I of the Essay of the mind, for example,as a "white paper," blank, and thus the primary object on whichsense experience conveys perceptions. This greatly disturbed Greenbecause Locke discussed the human mind as if it were an object, athing capable of observation. The origin of the "embarrassments"(I.8) of Locke's system, Green wrote, was Locke's "confusion be-tween the physical affection of the brain and the act of the self-con-scious subject...." (L16). The soul or mind is distinct from thebrain, he thought, because the soul is indivisible and indivisiblypresent. By "brain," however, is meant something material, i.e.,divisible (I.212), a concept by which, Green said, Locke fellinto the error of confusing the process of thought with the "affection


    of the sensitive organs.. " (I.18). To the contrary, Green argues,there is consciousness which is not physical impression becausewe have "consciousness of the succession of impressions ... "(II.35). We are, therefore, other than the series of impressions ofwhich we are conscious. This is an important observation because itis Green's charge also that Locke's system does not adequately accountfor the existence of personal identity. In Book IV, Chapter ix, Sect.3 of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke discussesour self-evident knowledge of our own existence. If I know I feelpain, it is evident I have as certain perception of my own existence,as of the existence of the pain I feel (I.143) Green retorts: "Uponthis the remark must occur that the existence of a painful feeling isone thing; the existence of a permanent subject, remaining thesame with itself, when the feeling is over, and through the succes-sion of other feelings quite another" (I.143).

    Here, too, Green's discussion is confusing because surreptitiously,or perhaps unconsciously, he has introduced a new concept, the con -

    cept of the `"act of the self-conscious subject" (I.16). For Green, ourconsciousness is our own "act." Our idea of an impression is not araw sensation. It is the perceptive act" by which the self-conscioussubject perceives himself in "negative relation" to an object (I.16).The primacy of act to sense experience turns, therefore, upon thenecessarily prior act of perception which makes sense experiencemeaningful by bringing it present to the consciousness as "experi-ence:" Experience, then, for Green, is meaningful due to the activepower of human mind to order it.

    If the human mind is not merely the passive receptacle of stimuli,but in fact is the locus of consciousness of an order which includesall that is, what is the relationship of the human mind to the divineground of being? If Green has reasserted the primacy of our con-sciousness of ourselves as conscious beings, then the consciousnesswhich denotes our humanity must stand in some relation to the ulti-mate reality of the complete "self-consciousness (I.152). Is mankindin some way an aspect of God? Green was assured that it is, indeedhe was convinced that the self, in the only sense in which it is ab-solutely real or an ultimate subject, is already God" (I.146). What isinteresting is that Green did not "discover" this view or insight inthe course of writing his critique of Locke and Hume. To some ex-tent, Locke ' s proof, in Book IV of the Essay, of the existence of Godmerely provides Green a philosophical context in which to insert his


    own predilections. The two "Introductions" were published in 1874,yet eight years previously he asserted the same in The Philosophyof Aristotle":

    If God cannot be described but by negatives, neither can the selfwithin us; and if we can yet gradually come to know ourselfthrough the acts of which it is the negative, so far may we cometo know God through the works which are his, though not himself.If in any true sense man can commune with the spirit within him,in the same he may approach God as one who, according to thehighest Christian idea, "liveth in him." Man, however, is slow to rec-ognize the divinity that is within himself, in his relation to theworld. ?

    Green criticized Locke for failing to deal . adequately with theproblem of the existence of the thinking subject. But after we aretold that the thinking subject is actually divine, are we any more per-suaded by Green's solution?


    Political obligation is a problem only when citizens cease tohold in common what previously enabled their community to co-here. And then more central questions arise such as what is politi-cal community? In order to have problems about the obligations ofcitizenship, one must be divided in one's community loyalties. Soc-rates in the Classical era provides a good example, as does the prob-lem of citizenship of the followers of the Gospel in the Christian era.Socrates followed the call of justice and thus was torn between jus-tice and his obligations as a citizen of Athens, and as a father andhusband. The Christian who was a Roman citizen had profound re-spect for the protections such citizenship afforded him, but also con-sidered himself a citizen of the city of God. In these examples politi-

    cal obligation was a problem because the traditional meaning ofcommunity itself was challenged by a newly differentiated conscious-ness of experience of participation in the divine reality and the great-

    er community of mankind. The response to this challenge by Socra-

    tes and the Christian saints led to the development in the West of apublic consciousness of political obligation as encompassing "open"or inclusive obligations which we owe to our fellowmen, rather thanmerely "closed or exclusive obligations we have toward our fellow

    7 Green, Works, 3:87.


    citizens or governors. (See Henri Bergson, Two Sources of Moralityand Religion.)

    Green's lectures on the principles of political obligation are in-teresting because political community, the basic problem of order vs.disorder, was not a particularly vital political issue in England at thetime he wrote. Yet, that is why Green devoted himself to the prob-lem of obligation. His choice of the term "political obligation" rath-er than the term "civil disobedience," a term which today connotes"disorder," perhaps explains his choice of topic. Green believed thathis fellow citizens were not living up to their civic responsibilities,and were justifying that negligence in social Darwinian terms. Green,always the moralist, saw that the failure to act with civic responsi-bility in the matter of social reforms was a denial of the public di-mensions of one's personal obligation.

    Green's lectures were first delivered at Oxford in 1879-1880and published after his death in 1882. The University of Michiganedition reviewed here consists of a fifty-paragraph introductory lec-ture on the nature of moral goodness taken from another series oflectures, and the lectures on political obligation themselves, com-posed of two hundred and fifty-one paragraphs. The Table of Con-tents, pp. xix-xxxvi; was compiled by the editor of Green's works, R.L. Nettleship, and there is a "Supplement" of English translationsof Latin and Greek passages compiled by Bernard Bosanquet. Wheth -

    er the divisions in the work attributed to Nettleship's editorshipthemselves convey an interpretation cannot be considered here,though the editor could have been of greater service to contemporaryreaders if he had rendered a critical edition.

    Green's introductory comments occupy the first thirty-one para-graphs of his lectures. The next eighty-one paragraphs are devotedto a consideration of the views of political obligation of Spinoza,Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Austin, with his chief argumentsaimed at Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Here, too, as in the "Intro-ductions," Green is at his critical best, and ought to be required read -

    ing for all educated Americans, especially members of the legal pro -

    fession and legislatures. Hell hath no fury like that of an outragedIdealist, and nothing could outrage Green more than the reading ofa few passages of the work of a social contract philosopher.

    In the introduction, Green discourses on the moral function oflaw, and quickly takes sight of his chief adversary, the influence ofthe modern natural right tradition on contemporary moral concepts.


    Moral goodness is wrapped in a social context, he writes, which mustfirst be understood and examined before one can deal with goodnessproper. Our moral interests are dependent on the social fabric whichsupports us in our quest for the good. Yet because of the limita -

    tions of the English language the term "natural rights" can be usedto ignore the primacy of the social fabric. Rights and obligations inthe modern natural right view are understood as if they existed in anasocial, "natural" context. Green wanted to deal with the questionof the role of law in relation to the problem of human freedom andmorality. But if it is assumed that law can be disposed of, and moral-ity analyzed in a vacuum, then we lose sight of the context whichgives color, clarity, and certainty to our moral concepts. The shortresult of such reasoning is also, he indicates, to dissociate rights fromduties. "'Natural right', as = right in a state of nature which is not astate of society, is a contradiction. There can be no right without aconsciousness of common interest on the part of members of a soci-ety. Without this there might be certain powers on the part of in-dividuals, but no recognition of these powers by others as powers ofwhich they allow the exercise, nor any claim to such recognition;and without this recognition or claim to recognition there can be noright" (31): 8 What rights were "natural" were so because they werenecessary for the realization of the proper ends of society. The claimthat men possess "natural rights" which allow them to act irre-sponsibly, or against the laws, he flatly rejected. "There is," he wrote,

    no such natural right to do as one likes irrespectively of society"(99). Green's definition of "right" explains his objection: "A rightis a power of which the exercise by the individual or by some bodyof men is recognized by a society, either as itself directly essential toa common good, or as conferred by an authority of which the main -

    tenance is recognized as so essential." (103). By this definition aright is a political phenomenon, given in the experience of men ofpolitical reality, and limited by their shared consciousness of thecommon good. As such, his concept of rights is rooted in the experi-ence of community obligation and not the autonomous will of fic-tional nonpolitical individuals. This critique of the modern natu


    ral rights doctrine was based on the Aristotelian concept of man asnot merely an intelligent animal, but also as citizen, political animal.

    ' Thomas Hill Green, Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (AnilArbor: The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1967). Refer-ences are to the paragraphs of the text.


    The end or telos of the person for Aristotle was the polis, and fromthis teleological stress on community rather than the individual,Green wrote that Plato and Aristotle "laid the foundation for alltrue theory of `rights' " (39). Man is by nature a political animal,and therefore the polis is a natural institution. Only in this sense of"natural" would Green accept a view of natural rights. Rights whichare natural in this political context are a function of the duties oneowes to the community. Aristotle called them right by nature.(Nicomachean Ethics, Book V, Chapter 7)

    Green believed that human personality was actualized in politi-cal community, not in some fictional state of nature. The persona ofman is necessarily that of the citizen. To divorce man from his citizen-ship in political community by a form of analysis which attempts todeal with him independently of his real existence in human soci -

    ety, was, so far as Green was concerned, the great fault of the socialcontract thinkers. Thus Green criticized the social contract thinkers'notion of the state of nature as a state where men were both free andequal. If this condition were to exist, he argued, it would be neces-sary for all men to be conscious of a common good which requiresthe common cooperation of all. That is "already in principle thesame as political society (53). The recognition of the claims of thelaw of nature by men in the state of nature would require that theyrecognize other men to be morally obliged to the same law. As suchthese would be social claims which hold men together in a societywhich is hardly different from political society.

    If these questions had been fairly considered, it must have beenseen that the distinction between a political society and a state ofnature, governed by such a law of nature, was untenable; that astate of things out of which political society could have arisen by -compact, must have been one in which the individual regardedhimself as a member of a society which has claims on him or onwhich he has claims, and that such society is already in principlea political society. (54)

    The difficulty some may have in accepting Green's analysis is inpart due to its severity. If one strips Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau ofthe notion of the state of nature, of apolitical man, natural rights andthe social contract, then one also must deprive them of the conceptof "consent" as the basis of civil society. And , it is the commonlyheld view that one is obliged to obey the sovereign to the extent thatthe sovereign is directly responsive to the consent of the partners to


    the social contract which is the chief social result of social contractthought. But is consent really the origin of political obligation? Howdoes consent explain that many of us never consented, or were askedto consent, to the community in which we reside? How is consentconsistent with the claim of Hobbes that the sovereign created by thesocial contract was absolute?

    Green attempted to answer these questions by distinguishing be-tween obligation and compulsion. What exists in the Hobbesian cir-cumstances, he thought, is only the compulsion to obey. Not only isthis inconsistent with the more general notion of natural rights aslimitations upon sovereignity, but it also does not account for thephenomenon that men understand themselves bound to the politi-cal community by compulsion and obligation. "Obligation," then,was a concept which Green distinguished from "compulsion" in or-der to differentiate the experience of moral obligation. Political ob-ligation is, Green thought, transparent to the experience of moralobligation. If men are obliged to political community by compul-sion to obey, as irn Hobbes, however, or by the fiction that they gavetheir consent to the state which exists to protect their naturalrights, how does one explain the consciousness of political obliga-tion which transcends force and consent? Green's reply is that com-munity is held together by more than autonomous rights and partic-ular interests. It was his definition of this community, however,which reveals those aspects of his political thought which are ex-tremely shaky.

    What men have in common and what constitutes the ground ofpolitical community, Green thought, is a consciousness of God. Bythis Green could mean, perhaps, that political community is not au-tonomous, but is experienced by men as consubstantial with divineorder. Plato taught, for example, that the common consciousnesswhich leads men to live together originates in the experience of thetranscendent divine ground (to on). 0 Aristotle, too, indicates thatparticipation in the divine noes is that which unites man with othermen, because all men have nous, and is that by which they are mosthuman. 10 Yet Green in the lectures on political obligation found acertain similarity between Rousseau's general will and the "theiosnous" of Plato and Aristotle (68). This is important to note because

    e Politeia, 509b.1d Metaphysics, 1072b20; NicomacheanEthics, 1177a12.


    though Green would criticize the modern notion of natural rightsand recognize that it was different from the classic formulation, hefailed to say that though the divine nous and General Will may haveperformed the same role, they were not really the same. The sum-mum malum, fear of death of Hobbes' Leviathan, for example, mayperform a similar teleological function to the common good inAristotle's Politics, but the great theoretical importance of Hobbeslies in his rejection of a teleologically oriented moral philosophy. Soa similar criticism can be directed at Rousseau. The important dif-ference between the General Will of Rousseau and the divine noun ofAristotle is that the former is a mental fiction not grounded in expe-rience, much like the historical fiction of the state of nature.

    This suggests that Green was not following Plato and Aristotlewhen he called "consciousness of God" the originating influence ofpolitical community 11 Also Green writes that human society, whichrenders possible the existence of "specific duties and the recognitionof them," implies

    the action in man of a principle in virtue of which he projectshimself into the future or into some other world as some more per-fect being than he actually is, and thus seeks not merely to satisfymomentary wants but to become "another man," to become morenearly as this more perfect being. Under this influence wants anddesires that have their root in the animal nature become an im-pulse of improvement ('Besserungstrieb'), which forms, enlarges,and recasts societies; always keeping before man in various guise,according to the degree of his development, an unrealised idealof a best which is his God, and giving divine authority to the cus-toms or laws by which some likeness of this ideal is wrought intothe actuality of life. 12

    There is an important suggestion in this lengthy passage that the"consciousness of God" of which Green speaks is the result of a self-projection, a creation of the will rather than an act of reflection onan unchangeable relation. Is this willingness to become like a moreperfect being" the philosophic experience of consciousness of par-ticipation in the transcendent divine ground as both Plato and Aris-totle understood that consciousness to form political community?Isn't there an important separation between man and the divine im-plicit in the classic articulations? When Socrates says in the Phaedo,

    11 Green, Works, "Faith, " 3:269.12 Green, Works, "Faith," 3:269-270.


    for example, that whatever is beautiful is so because it participates(metechei) in absolute beauty, he means that we are conscious of itsconsubstantiality with that beauty.1 3 He is not saying that it is ab -solutely identical with absolute beauty. Green writes, however, thatthis "consciousness of God" is not indeed an external proof of theexistence of God, but is in principle that existence itself.... "14 Ifso, then it should be admitted that this consciousness is not humanconsciousness, it is divine. In this difference of emphasis betweenGreen 's view of man and classical philosophy, his lectures on politi-cal obligation manifest their radically modern character and a pe-culiar ambiguity. First, Green develops his concept of consciousnessof God as the formative influence in the formation of states from theperspective of an alleged divinity of man. Second, Green recognizesthat a consideration of the problem of political obligation is an inquiry which requires a view of history. Green would go one step be-yond the historical fictions of the social contract philosophers andbase political philosophy on totally historicist grounds.

    Green did not found obligation to political community on the"delusion" that we are obliged because we gave our consent to theformation of political community. The nucleus of political obliga-tion, he said, is moral will, and the common consciousness whichcreates rights by recognizing their existence in the political commun-ity was grounded in the universality of will.

    By "will" we mean the effort of a self-conscious subject to satisfy it-self. In God, so far as we can ascribe reason and will to Him, wemust suppose them to be absolutely united. In Him there can beno distinction between possibility and realization, between the ideaof perfection and the activity determined by it. But in men theself-realising principle, which is the manifestation of God in theworld of becoming, in the form which it takes as will at best onlytends to reconciliation with itself in the form which it takes asreason. is

    This passage suggests that Green identified human will, or the im-petus in man towards self-realization, with God. Nowhere is thismore clear than in his theological writings where he seemed to begroping for a vocabulary by which to express his concept of the man-ifestation of God in human will. Alternatively he adopted the con-

    1S Phaedo, 100c.14 Green, Works, "Faith," 3:269.15 Emphasis added.


    cepts of the "true self," "the principle of self-consciousness," whichhe thought was equivalent to the Greek nous, though by that hemeant "the spirit of God," and the possible self.'" This latter prin-ciple was, he thought, the basis of moral action.

    Now to act for an object which I present to myself, or make myobject, is to identify myself with it, and thus to desire to be some-thing which I am not, but which I conceive myself as able to be-come. Moral action, then, as determined by such desire, is an ex-pression at once of conscious contrast between an actual and possi-ble self, and of an impulse to make that possible self real; or, as itis sometimes put, it is a process of self-realization, i.e., of makinga possible self. IT

    Green did not believe that to identify the "possible self" with Godwas as offensive as it might seem at first glance. By no means does itdestroy the existence of God, he argued, in fact it reaffirms His exis-tence. We need not be frightened then from the doctrine that man isidentical with God on the ground that it makes God no more than'man. "1 8 There is a compelling truth in this if indeed that aspect ofman which he calls the "possible self" is God. But, what does thisconcept do to our consciousness of man? Is it not admissible that inhis ecstasy over the alleged divinity of man Green has abolished thehumanity of man?

    Though his concept of moral action was, he thought, equivalentto the Aristotelian concept of participation in the divine nous, it ac


    tually breaks the tension Aristotle articulates between the divineground of being and man's noetic participation in the divine nous.To Green the nous of man is a mere manifestation of God. The effectof this assumption is to destroy the distinction between man andGod, which in the Platonic and Aristotelian formulations is a dif-ference of kind, and make the relationship a bridgeable differenceof degree. This is clearly stated in Green's Prolegomena where hewrites that God

    is not merely a Being who has made us, in the sense that we exist asan object of the divine consciousness in the same way in which wemust suppose the system of nature so to exist, but that He is a Beingin whom we exist; with whom we are in principle one; with whom

    1e Green, Works, 3:223; 3:202; 3:224."Green, Works, 3:224."Green, Works, 3:225.


    the human spirit is identical, in the sense that He is all which thehuman spirit is capable of becoming. (187)19

    Melvin Richter's study of the success of the Green school at Ox-ford and in intellectual culture in England during the last quarter ofthe Nineteenth Century indicates that his popularity was due in partto the ripeness of educated Englishmen for a theological explanationof social and historical existence intellectually independent of tradi-tional Protestantism. Like Carlyle, who could not believe the Puri-tanism in which he was raised and found his intellectual ground inthe view of a redivinized man and world preached by Fichte andSchelling, the students of T. H. Green saw light in Green's theologi -caland political utterances. Why should one be troubled by unbe-lief if the doctrines rejected are false? It is the God in you whichstrives for communication with God. "20 Why pray if there is no evi -dence that it does any good?

    Look not for an external answer to your prayer. Your prayer willbe its own answer, even as the virtuous action is its own reward

    . (Prayer) is the determination of desire by the consciousness ofGod, and is an incident of that process which, as the effort to real-ise a conception of absolute law, to fulfill our true vocation, to de-velop humanity, to enact God in the world, constitutes the morallygood life. 21

    The political implications of the aspiration to enact God in theworld" will be discussed later.


    T. H. Green did not live long enough to develop fully the his-toricist core of his thought. A careful reading of his lectures on polit-ical obligation, and the Prolegomena, however, gives evidence of thecentrality of this problem to his thought. Green wanted to accountfor the historical form of God's manifestation in the world. In theLectures on Political Obligation, he speaks of the stages of existenceof a "consciously self-realising principle" (20). If there are stages inwhich God 's movement in the world may be seen, however, there

    10 Thomas Hill Green, Prolegomena to Ethics, A. C. Bradley, ed. (New York:Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1969). References are to paragraphs of the text. Em-phasis added.

    20 Green, Works, 3:273.21 Ibid. Emphasis added.


    must also be some end towards which these stages aim. That end, ' heasserted, is man's "perfection of himself and his kind" (5). Theideal of human perfection, or of the perfect life, he wrote in theProlegomena, exists in God, and its communication to man is themeans by which mankind becomes like God (319). The two ingredi-ents in this "moral progress of mankind," Green noted in his lec-tures on political obligation, are will and reason. In God, will andreason are "absolutely united" (21). But in man, will in the sense ofthe "empirical will" is at odds with reason, a manifestation of God.History then is the crucible in which the reconciliation of immanentdivine reason in man and will is accomplished. As a consequence,Green's Prolegomena to Ethics is not devoted to the traditional ethi-cal concern of human action. Having asserted an absolute identityof "man" with the godhead, Green radically transposes the focus ofethics from human action to the movement of mankind to a state ofperfect being. For Green human experience of knowledge is actuallythe vehicle of an eternally complete consciousness which makes ofmen the "subjects of its self-communication" (77). At work in hu-man consciousness and thus in human action in time is the self-realization of the divine principle, Perhaps because his project was soradical Green was compelled to state only a prolegomena, and notthe full blown system. Before such new knowledge concerning ethicscould be imparted, it was necessary to state the foundations on whichsuch a concept of ethics would be built (2).

    The Prolegomena to Ethics, in the edition reviewed here, wasedited by A. C. Bradley; whose editing, like Nettleship's of the lectureson political obligation, by his editing created problems for con-temporary reviewers. Because Green died before the work was com-pleted, Bradley took it upon himself to develop the manuscriptinto an Introduction, Books, and Chapters, to alter the order ofsmaller paragraphs, and to divide larger paragraphs into smallerparagraphs. This edition also contains an "Analytical Table ofContents"which provides paragraph content descriptions. More-over, in the "Preface" the editor writes that it was his desire to makeno changes except in passages which I felt sure Mr. Green would

    have altered had his attention been called to them" (xxviii).Theonly thing Bradley did not do was to subdivide the "Books" intothree symmetrical chapters.

    Green began his study with an elaboration of Kant's concept ofthe "thing-in-itself." Kant argued that what we know, our phenom


    enal knowledge, exists in us, and not in that of which we are con-scious. We know our own consciousness, our presentation to con-sciousness of appearances, but we do not know things in themselves.Kant wrote, for example, that the order in nature is introduced byus, by which he meant that the order of nature which we experienceis intertwined with the intellectual process by which we experienceits order. Green's summation of Kant is explanatory: The under-standing `makes' nature, but out of a material which it does notmake. That material, according to Kant, consists in phenomena or`data' of sensibility, given under the so-called forms of intuition,space and time" (11).

    Because all that we know is related to consciousness, Green couldnot understand how many natural philosophers could believe thatthe principle which unifies our experience of phenomena is the ne-gation of consciousness. Man is prior to and the author of nature,not the passive receptacle of unintelligent sense data. But doesn't thislead ultimately to the view that there is no reality, no objectivetruth, that all is illusion and the creation of our consciousness?Green never specifically faced the general issue of whether to takea solipsistic perspective or to search out for better philosophicalground. He wrote in the "Introductions" that "Thought" is theworld, but held also that there is an "unalterable order of relations"determining our experience, but that neither the temporary presen-tation of each experience nor the sum of such experiences can inthemselves be viewed as reality. Reality is the relation of conscious-ness to experience, which is what Green calls "intelligent experi-ence" (16).

    If reality is actually 'intelligent experience" what is the "intelli-gent principle in reality? Green wrote that because we have con-nected experience of related objects, there must be operative in con-sciousness "a unifying principle, which not only presents related ob-jects to itself, but at once renders them objects and unites them inrelation to each other by this act of presentation. " (32). Kant,Green tells us, called this unity of consciousness the 'synthetic uni-ty of apperception' " (33). It is at this point, however, that Greenseems to jump out of his Kantian shoes and argue something of aradically different order, that, yes, there is consciousness itself, orintelligent experience. But there is also "consciousness in itself"which we know only insofar as it acts in us (51). Green seems hereto have gone beyond philosophy as description of human con-


    sciousness of being, to assert what the origin of intelligent experi-ence is, and what that arche knows, that is, what is in the DivineMind. Interestingly enough, there is evidence which suggests thatGreen knew that he was engaging in an endeavor which even Kantabjured. In Green's manuscript lectures on Kant's Critique of PureReason, he describes Kant's warnings on this issue: If asked, Isthis unchangeable subject God? Kant's answer, or the answer in hisspirit, would be, In calling it God you are trying to know thatwhich you cannot know, because no phenomena represent it. Underthe term `God' you are mentally applying to it predicates which donot stand for any real knowledge; you are trying to say what the un -

    changeable subject is, whereas you are only entitled to say that itis." 22 Going much beyond Kant, Green asserted that the presence ofa unifying principle in human consciousness can only be explainedby supposing that in the growth of our experience ... an animal or-ganism, which has its history in time, gradually becomes the vehicleof an eternally complete consciousness" (67). The difficulty withthis stems from the mental leap from the statement that man's con-sciousness is intelligent to the assertion that it is intelligent becausethe eternal consciousness reproduces itself in human consciousness.Here we must return to our analysis of Green's radical view of manwhich held that he would not admit a distinction between man andGod which is a difference of kind, but believed that the differencewas a bridgeable difference of degree. For Green, man's intelligentexperience is but a lesser form of "consciousness in itself," the "eter -

    nal consciousness." This "consciousness in itself," or "eternal sub-ject," reproduces itself, he wrote, as the spirit of mankind; or as theparticular self of this or that man in whom the spirit of mankind op -

    erates" (100). It is the only reality, all other things, he says, haverelative or derived reality. Human reflection on it is really the actionof the eternal consciousness, and knowledge is possible in man onlythrough the action of this "eternal subject" (101).

    At this point in our description of Green's development of histheme, it would be well to consider the difference between his elab-oration of the role of the divine mind and his development of hismethod in the early portions of the Prolegomena. Green began withhuman experience of consciousness of phenomena and emphasizedits priority over unintelligent sensation. In these paragraphs he sys-

    22 Green, Works, 2:31.


    tematically dealt with the weaknesses of the materialist perspective,paraphrased the perspective of Kant, and then began his descriptionof "consciousness-in-itself." This consciousness, however, was seennot to be human consciousness, but, rather, was divine consciousness.It works its effect in the world, we are told, through the moral devel-opment of mankind, which development is actually the work of thedivine mind manifest in select men as the spirit of mankind.

    The uniqueness of this latter development in Green's thought liesin its nonexperiential cast, seen by reference to his discussion of thedimensions of political community. Wherever there is politicalcommunity Green saw as the formative influence a consciousness ofGod, or alternatively "a self-objectifying spirit" (216), that leadsman to seek an absolute good capable of actualization only in com-munity. Though the first communities of man were limited to thosewho composed them, he said, the principle which formed them willpotentially lead to the recognition of the community of all men. Theimpetus to progress from what Bergson calls the "closed society" intothe "open,''23 in Green's speculation is implicit in the basis of moralnature as a social phenomenon. This creates certain problems forhis analysis, however. Green notes that the Greek concept of politicalcommunity was limited to citizens of Greek cities, was thereforeexclusive of non-Greeks, but does not explain why there was a changefrom this restricted horizon of classical community life to the uni-versal dimensions of political reality in the Christian era. He doesadmit that the Christian ideal of virtue is superior to the Greek be-cause he believed it implied "a wider range of interest and activityin the work of perfecting mankind . . (278). Yet for Greenthis advance was not a leap into a different order of consciousness,as Bergson conceived it, but was the actualization of latent civiliza-tion potential, thus merely a difference of degree. As a result, Greenfails to account for the uniqueness of the experience of Israel and theGospels. Granted his assumptions, however, there was really no al-ternative because he was not interested in an analysis of those his -

    torical experiences which separate Israel from the cosmological cul-tures of the ancient Near East, or which give Christianity its unique-ness. These historical developments were not experientially of in-terest to Green because he thought that his subject was beyondexperience.

    ' Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, R. Ashley Audraand Cloudesley Brereton, trans. (1935, reprinted Garden City, N. Y.: DoubledayAnchor Books, n.d.), Chapter I, "Moral Obligation."


    According to the doctrine of this treatise, as we have previouslyendeavored to state it, there is a principle of self-development inman... In virtue of this principle he anticipates experience. In acertain sense he makes it, instead of merely waiting to be made byit. He is capable of being moved by an idea of himself, as becomingthat which he has it in him to be-an idea which does not representprevious experience, but gradually brings experience into being

    (352) 24

    The Prolegomena, as this passage indicates, is an elaborate specula-

    tion upon a mental concept or "Ideal," which is not grounded inthe experience by which we ordinarily denote reality.

    The first reaction of those scholars familiar with German Idealismand its historical genesis would be, perhaps, to associate Green'sreferences to the bringing of experience into being with Kant's dis -

    cussion of the a priori basis of knowledge. There are fundamentaldifferences between Kant and Green, however, whichshould be re-membered. Kant was too firmly enmeshed in the battle againstdogmatic philosophy to set all indices of experience aside in the con-struction of a new dogmatism. In the Critique of Pure Reason hewrote that the function of critical philosophy was a negative onewhich serves to limit pure reason and guard against error,2 5 Theaspiration to attain knowledge "beyond the limits of possible experi-ence," he thought, is based on an illusion which can only destroyitself in the attempt. 25 Nevertheless, Kant did speak of the presenta-tional act of the mind which brings experience into existence. Bythat, however, he did not mean the making of new realities out ofnothing but mind alone; rather that the mind presents the stimulusof the senses to consciousness and by that act they become "experi -

    ence. By rescuing mind from the purely passive conception it hadbeen accorded by Hume, Kant did not attempt to confer upon itactive powers beyond what he calls "possible experience." The"possible is contingent, he wrote, upon the "conditions of intuitionand of concepts which are themselves limited by experience. 27

    For these reasons we suggest that however much Green was indebtedto Kant, the probable origins of the type of speculation in which heengaged precede Kant's critical Idealism.

    24 Emphasis added.26 Immanuel Kant, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Norman Kemp

    Smith, trans. (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965), 629.Ibid., 378.

    2'r Ibid., 239.



    The peculiar emphasis in Green's thought on the nonexperien-tial, the identification of man with the divine, and the mixture ofreligion and philosophy is characteristic not only of the absoluteIdealism of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel but also of the Gnostic move-ment of the first three centuries A.D. It was suggested earlier thatGreen himself was aware of the similarities between Idealism andChristian heresies, but there are other similarities. The term gnosisitself implies nonexperiential information about the God which hu -

    man wisdom cannot know. Its possession by the Gnostic was a signof initiation and also symbolized the eschatological reunification offorces in the godhead. In Valentinian Gnosticism, for example,the possession of gnosis signified an actual event in the divine mind,an eschatological development, the overcoming of an existentialcondition of ignorance in the godhead. 28. Gnosis was not merely thepossession of certain truth, but an inner divine event. For this rea-son, perhaps, a colloquium on the origin of Gnosticism held in 1966,in its published statement, took this aspect of gnosis as central tothe definition of the concept:

    Not every gnosis is Gnosticism, but only that which involves inthis perspective the idea of the divine consubstantiality of thespark that is in need of being awakened and reintegrated. Thisgnosis of Gnosticism involves the divine identity of the knower(the Gnostic), the known (the divine substance of one's trans-cendental self) and the means by which one knows (gnosis as animplicitly divine faculty is to be awakened and actualized.... )29

    It is representative of this quality of gnosis that Simon Magus de-clared himself to be God and the acts of the Father to be his own. In-deed, Jonas notes that some Gnostic sects called the godhead"Man." 30 Gnosticism was a religion in which the word "man

    " hadtwo meanings. There is the "man" who is their chief concern andinterest. But he is not "man" in the sense that the word implies atheoretical distinction between man and the divine. The Gnostic's"man" is distinctly not human, he is an emanation of the godhead.

    Hans Jonas; The Gnostic Religion. The Message of the Alien God and the Be-ginnings of Christianity, 2nd ed. rev. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 35 (hereaftercited as Jonas, Gnostic Religion).

    Ugo Bianchi, ed., Le Origini Dello Gnosticismo (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967),xxvii.

    90 Jonas, Gnostic Religion, 217.


    Though in principle the psychological center of Gnosticism is theGnostics' concern for the condition, existence, and salvation of thespark of the divine entrapped in an alien world, they portrayed theirconcern in theogonic terms. For this reason, all Gnostic statementsabout man were, by the very focus of their thought, statements aboutthe godhead.

    There are indications, however; that Gnosticism is not the onlyclassical influence in the formation of Green's Idealism. The eschatological expectations of the Gnostics and T. H. Green are similarto certain aspects of neo-Platonism. Because our knowledge ofthis aspect of the influences upon German and English Idealism isquite limited, however, to attempt a development in these pageswould raise more questions than answers. We shall, for that rea -son, refer to only one sentence of the Fifth Ennead of Plotinus inorder to suggest the possibility of an historical influence and aconceptual similarity.

    The One is all things, Plotinus writes, and no one of them;the source (arche) of all things is not all . things; and yet it is allthings in a transcendent sense-all things so to speak, having runback (anedrame) to it: or, more correctly,. not all as yet within it,they will be (estai)" (v.2.1). 31 The passage is helpful because it sug-gests a term, anedrame, which describes the expectation of a returnwhich in a curious way has occurred, but is yet incomplete. Themerging of the past and present in such a symbol is evocative of theChristian expectation of a salvation which is already complete, butyet bears the promise of a final denouement. It is also curious be-cause Plotinus the philosopher recognizes that the tension betweencreation and the creator, immanence and transcendence; a tensionwhich pulls us to the divine reality, also forecloses the possibility ofan absolute identity. Yet in the conclusion of the passage in a veryunphilosophic way Plotinus writes of a future return or runningback to the one divine arche. This eschatological expectation ofPlotinus is similar to the expectation of Green of the perfection ofmankind, a subject which he considered of such importance that hedevoted himself to writing his Prolegomena.

    We have used the term "radical to describe Green's thought,but it is perhaps necessary to be more specific. In a sense, Green did

    3' Plotinus, The Enneads, Stephen MacKenna, trans. (London: Faber & Faber,Ltd., 1956).


    not have an anthropology. He had a view of man which abolishedman's humanity in order to assert that men are actually divine. Hiswas a view of man which could be called anthroptheonic, a view ofman-god. Green did not have a philosophy of history, he had aphilosophic theogony. Since man was for Green a manifestation ofGod, Green's historicism took the form of an Idealist myth of God'sdevelopment. Green's emphasis in the Prolegomena, therefore, wasnot the traditional concern of human action. Utilizing Plotinus'symbol of anedrame, we could say that Green's ethical thought isactually an anedramic eschatology, a story of man's moral develop-ment as the progress or becoming of existent things towards a futureunity with the divine. Because such a subject matter is not a matterfor human philosophic contemplation, the future of mankind, afterall, is not a subject of which we have any experience, Greenshould perhaps be called a priest. These terms and the distinctionsthey imply, though strange at first sight, are necessary to describe theradical restructuring of thought which is implicit in Idealism. Rob-ert Tucker of Princeton University has written of this phenomenaand called it the self as god in German philosophy."3 2 At the rootof this deification of the self, he writes, is a neurotic type of pride,distinguishable from ordinary or legimate pride, "expressed in aperson's creation of an idealized image of himself as a being of god-like perfection, in his presumption that this being represents hisreal self, and in his attempt to prove it in practice." 33 This pride, heargues, is actually a religious phenomenon, though of an unusualtype because the object of one's worship is not God, but oneself.Tucker remarks that it is not surprising that such a revolution in re-ligion led to the formulation of a religion of revolution. But howmany admirers of T. H. Green have sensed the presence of a radicalrevolutionary potential in his thought? In this context Green's as-piration to "enact God in the world" is immensely important be-cause it symbolizes the motivation for political action by men whoarrogantly identify themselves with a divine reality in the processof becoming, and whose own projects are alleged to be the will ofGod in the world. For this very reason it is instructive to note thatwhen Green applied his philosophic Idealism to the subject of pout-

    sa Robert Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (Cambridge: At theUniversity Press, 1965), 31.

    Ibid., 32.


    ical idealism in the Prolegomena, he conceived a type of politicswhich in our own day has been commonly accepted as the "best" im-pulse in democratic politics. Green writes:

    No one doubts that a man who improves the current morality ofhis time must be something of an Idealist. He must have an idea,which moves him to seek its realization, of a better order of lifethan he finds about him. That idea cannot represent any experi-enced reality. If it did, the reformer's labour would be superflu-ous; the order of life which he seeks to bring about would be al-ready in existence. It is an idea to which nothing real as yet corre-sponds, but which, as actuating the reformer, tends to bring intobeing a reality corresponding to itself. (299)


    The concept of politics implicit in this passage proposes a radicalbreak with the politics of the Western political tradition where po-litical science is understood to be composed of the science of humanaction and of taw-giving. Distinguished from art (techne) which is atechnique of making, political science in this tradition is an order ofaction within real possibilities."35 For T. H. Green, however, polit-ical science is a project of making "possible realities," 36 the possible-

    ness of which is not grounded in any experienced order, but in theexpectation that men imbued with the eternal consciousness canmove mountains, can "enact God in the world." This expectation,however, is not political science. It is religious apocalypse similar tothe revelations of Isaiah, the Book of Revelations, and Gnosticism.

    RICHARD J. BISHIRJIANCollege of New Rochelle

    " Emphasis added.Gerhart Niemeyer, Between Nothingness and Paradise (Baton Rouge: Loui-

    siana State University Press, 1971), viii.Ibid.

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