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Thomas Hill Green

Green, Thomas Hill, 1836–82, English idealist philosopher. Educated at Oxford, he was associated with the university all his life. He was professor of moral philosophy there from 1878 until his death. In his Introduction to Hume's Treatise on Human Nature (1874), Green struck a heavy blow at traditional British empiricism. Rejecting sensationalism, he argued that all reality lies in relations, that relations exist only for a thinking consciousness, and that therefore the world is constituted by mind. In his Prolegomena to Ethics (1883) Green submitted an ethics of self-determination, which he epitomized in the phrase "Rules are made for man and not man for rules." Self-determination is present when humanity is conscious of its own desires, and freedom occurs when people identify themselves with what they consider morally good. Green's ethics are believed to have influenced, among others, John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead. Politically, Green was a liberal; he asserted that government must represent the general will and that when it fails to do so it should be changed. See his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (1895).

See M. Richter, The Politics of Conscience: T. H. Green and His Age (1983).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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