The Rise of British Idealism

  • Timothy Maxwell Gouldstone


Mansel had clearly seen the challenge confronting Christian apologetics in the 1850s, that the new interest in German idealism and the prevailing utilitarian mood of English philosophy posed a threat to the relevance of traditional Christian apologetics. Mansel also attacked ‘Modern German Philosophy’ in 1859, in which he said that this movement was based ‘on assumptions which it is impossible to verify if true, and impossible to convict if false … the reality of which we are in search can never be attained in the form of an absolute unity’.1 A few years previously, Mansel had written a satirical sketch entitled, The Phrontisterion, or Oxford in the 19th Century that had been occasioned by the appointment of a Commission to ‘enquire into the State, Discipline, Studies and Revenues of the University and Colleges of Oxford’. Some feared that undue weight would be given to developments in German universities with a result that the spiritual nature of the English system would be undermined by godless ‘usefulness’:

I have it now! the Universities.

Long as those monkish rookeries exist

They’ll be a drag upon us go a-head men;

At least with Church Establishment. Abroad

They manage these things differently: The Burschen

Fight at the barricades; and Herr Professor

Will sketch you twenty Paper-Constitutions

Shall only cost the foolscap. No subscribing

To Articles, no tests of Church Communion;

But good Free Trade, religious and political,

Progress and Agitation. But at Oxford

There’s nought but bigotry and priestcraft.


Nineteenth Century Continental Philosophy German Idealism Anglican Idealism Christian Theism 
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  1. 18.
    Coleridge, S.T. in Griggs, E.L. (ed.) Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (6 vols.) (1956–71), I, 397, quoted in Holmes, R.H. (1982), 11.Google Scholar
  2. 32.
    Cf. Reardon, B.M.G. (1971), 74 — ‘Idealistic monism could not be reconciled with Christian dualism. [Coleridge said] “In short, Schelling’s system and mine stand thus: In the latter there are God and Chaos: the former an Absolute Somewhat, which is alternately both, the rapid legerdemain shifting of which constitutes the delusive appearance of Poles.” (Unpublished Notebook, 28, ff.30v-31 quoted by Reardon from Boulger, JA. Coleridge as Religious Thinker, (1961), 108.) The idealist Absolute was impersonal and abstract, whereas for Coleridge personality in man and in god, is a fact always of supreme value’.Google Scholar

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© Timothy Maxwell Gouldstone 2005

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  • Timothy Maxwell Gouldstone

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