The general will and the speech community: British Idealism and the foundations of politics

Although the British Idealists did not provide a systematic account of language as a distinct philosophical phenomenon, language is nonetheless a fundamental element of Idealist social and political philosophy. This is seen mostly in the Idealist treatment of the concept of general will, which resulted in a Hegelian theory of community, constituted by shared understandings and a shared account of the common good and common interest. This article contains analysis of the relations between language and socio-political institutions in British Idealist writings. The narrative focuses on Thomas Hill Green and Bernard Bosanquet – two major political thinkers representing the said philosophical tradition. The argument proceeds as follows: firstly, possible linguistic interpretations of the Idealist philosophical tradition are introduced. Then the author turns to Green’s conception of general will as the foundation of socio-political order and political sovereignty. In the third section, he focuses on the Idealist interpretation of general will introduced by Bosanquet. The next section is concerned with ‘dominant ideas’, a category playing a prominent role in any social change as pictured by Bosanquet. Finally, the author summarizes the content of the article, pointing to potential difficulties with the British Idealist account of language.
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Reprint years 2017, 2018
DOI 10.1080/09608788.2017.1393618
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Phenomenology of Spirit.G. W. F. Hegel, A. V. Miller & J. N. Findlay - 1978 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 40 (4):671-672.
Hegel, British Idealism, and the Curious Case of the Concrete Universal.Robert Stern - 2007 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15 (1):115 – 153.
Prolegomena to Ethics.Thomas Hill Green & David O. Brink - 2004 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 66 (2):389-389.
"The Logic of Language Change".David Kolb - 2006 - In Hegel and Language. Albany: SUNY Press,. pp. 179-195.

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