ABSTRACT

THE main line of British philosophy runs in a relatively continuous and self-contained course from the Renaissance to the present day. This line of thought is usually called empiricism or the philosophy of experience. More than any other it can look back upon a long tradition and in no other country has it been embodied so typically and strikingly as in the British Isles. We may therefore call it the indigenous or national or traditional school, and although it would be a crude misinterpretation of the facts to identify it simply with British thinking, yet there is a certain justification for holding that this is the most typically British school. In any case we have here not a school which has been invented by historians of philosophy, but the real existence of a single basic idea and attitude of thought, which in. spite of great diversity, in spite of side-issues and by-paths, offers to our view what is essentially a unitary whole. The philosophic line which stretches from Bacon and Hobbes to Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, and thence to Bentham, Mill, and Spencer, implies a complex of coherent and harmonious principles which take on a different appearance according to the standpoint froJ:!l which they are viewed, but always stand in relation to the same totality. If we wish to find suitable terms for this totality in its main aspects, we must choose empiricism or positivism to show its general philosophic position, sensationalism or phenomenalism in relation to its theory of knowledge, associationism in relation to its psychology, hedonism, eudaemonism, or utilitarianism in relation to its ethics, scepticism or agnosticism in relation to its metaphysics, deism or indifferentism (occasionally also atheism) in relation to religion, liberalism in relation to politics.