After reading this article you will learn about the contributions of Francis Herbert Bradley to political thought.
In political philosophy there is very little contribution of Francis Herbert Bradley. He is still remembered by students of history of political thought because of his connection with the Oxford idealist school.
His famous book Ethical Studies was published in 1876. T. H. Green was then alive. There is a chapter in this book “My Station and Its Duties.” It was in the philosophy remarks Copplestone, of Francis Herbert Bradley that emphasize on the subject.
Object relationship was decisively supplanted by the idea of supra-national one, the all-embracing Absolute.
Green was Hegelian no doubt but Hegelianism reached its culmination in Francis Herbert Bradley. Bradley develops the idea that the state is a moral organism and the individual is a part of it.
He performs all his duties simply as a moral unit. In the chapter “My Station and Its Duties” Bradley says that one’s duties are specified, by one’s station, by one’s place and function in the social organism. This announcement leads him to assert that morality not only is but ought to be relative.
“That is to say it is not simply a question of noting the empirical fact that moral convictions have differed in certain respects in different societies. Bradley maintains in addition that moral codes would be of no use unless they were relative to given societies”.
To put it in other words, the morality or moral actions are to be judged in the background of particular society. Bradley wants to emphasize that what a man will do is decided by his position in the society.
Besides, he is an integral part of the social organism. Naturally, he has very little freedom in respect of what he will do. Francis Herbert Bradley borrows the conception of moral organism from Plato and Hegel.
According to Plato, there is a function for every man appropriate to his position and it is his righteousness to perform that function. This function is also commensurate with the structure, nature and purpose of the society.
So to refuse to perform the socially ordained duty is immorality. Again, Hegel says that the spirit of the nation (which is a spirit of social righteousness), controls and entirely dominates from within each person, so that he feel to be his own very being and looks upon it as his absolute final aim.
In Bradley’s conception the state is an organic unity. The functions are determined by the state and the individual performs them.
His morality, his freedom, his righteousness and everything else lie in his ability to discharge those duties. Francis Herbert Bradley has said – “In fact what we call an individual man is what he is because of and by virtue of community, and communities are not mere names but something real.”
The identity and character of the individual are determined by the community in which he is born and brought up.
We quote Barker:
“Already at birth the child is what he is in virtues of the communities he has something of the family character, something of the national character, something of the civilized character which comes from human society. As he grows, the community in which he lives pours itself into his being in the language he learns and the social atmosphere he breathes, so that the consent of his being implies in its every fibre relations of community”.
The individuals find their fullness of character if they sincerely cultivate their specific duties.
Francis Herbert Bradley says:
“The breadth of my life is not measured by the multitude of my pursuits, not the space I take up amongst other men, but by the fullness of the whole life which I know as mine.” Bradley’s state is a “moral organism”.
Its parts are the citizens. But there is a difference between the parts of the body and those of the state. Parts of the state are self-conscious.