EDWARD CAIRD AND BRITISH IDEALIST PHILOSOPHY

This particular text is added as an introduction and took place in Oxford.

Speaker: Dr. Wm. Mander, Oxford University 20 January '98
This is the summary of the paper which is available in full text , as delivered by Dr. Mander.

At a time when in its native Germany, idealism as a philosophical force was practically spent, in Britain its ideas were taken up and developed in new directions with such enthusiasm that it quickly became the country's dominant philosophical school. The main reasons for its success were the growing sense of conflict between the findings of natural science and the claims of religion, and the felt need for a political theory that, by giving a more significant role to notion of state itself, might serve to combat the predominantly individualistic approach to social questions. One of the most important philosophers of this school was Edward Caird.
The heart of Caird's philosophy is to be found in two doctrines, his idealism and his developmentalism. Though it had many sources, both philosophical and literary, most often Caird presented his idealism through consideration, criticism and
development of the philosophy of Kant. He argued that Kant had demonstrated the falsity of materialism, but this result he understood neither in terms of Berkeyean 'spiritualism' nor of Hegelian 'panlogiscism. He held instead that subject and object, mind and matter both exist inside an infinite self-consciousness, God or the Absolute, but that they do so in a quite equal way; within and through this overarching framework matter is no more relative to mind than mind is to matter.
Caird believed in a continuous and all-pervasive evolution. Wherever he looks he finds progressive development; in the natural world, in culture and civilisation, in nationhood, in human knowledge, in art. But his main worked example of an evolutionary system is that of religion. He argues that there are three basic stages to this evolution - objective religion, subjective religion, and Absolute religion. For Caird it belonged to the very essence of the Absolute to evolve and grown in its own self-recognition. He uses the idea of development as means of relating both the finite to the underlying infinite, and the infinite to its fine manifestations.
Several of Caird's pupils went on to become important philosophers, and Balliol College of which he was for a time Master was of great political importance at that time, but his long term legacy to philosophy has been very much less than it deserves to be.