By David Boucher
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Additional info for British Idealism: A Guide for the Perplexed
On first sight, Darwin thought Wallace’s conclusions were almost identical to his own. Wallace had even isolated natural selection as the evolutionary mechanism. It transpired, however, that there were significant differences between their theories. The mechanism for eliminating the unfit differed: for Wallace it was the environment, while for Darwin the emphasis was on a merciless competition among individuals. Ideologically, they were wide apart and it influenced the way they interpreted evidence.
The most prominent Personal or Subjective Idealists were Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, Hastings Rashdall, Henry Sturt, W. R. Boyce Gibson, the American Brand Blanshard and the idiosyncratic James M. E. McTaggart, who taught the latter day Absolute Idealist Michael Oakeshott. Idealism was consistent in emphasizing that there could be no thought without a thinker, and no thinker without thought. The point at which they parted company was over its implications for the idea of the finite individual.
While agreeing with naturalistic evolutionists that humanity is continuous with nature, the Idealists still contended the first must be explained and understood in terms of the last, and not as Darwin posited, the higher must be explained with reference to the lower in the evolutionary process. W. R. 59 In this respect Idealists do not go as far as to suggest that humans are so different in kind from the rest of nature that they require completely different forms of explanation. It is nature that has to be explained in terms fitting of human beings.