Abstract and Keywords
The degree to which British Idealists, both Absolutists and Personalists, were influenced by evolutionary debates has been underestimated, and far from being outright opponents they developed their own particular brand in order to demonstrate the relevance of their philosophies to addressing the important issues of the day. They were opposed to naturalism, but agreed with the likes of Darwin and Spencer that nature and spirit exhibit a continuity. Where they disagreed was in the naturalistic emphasis of giving priority to nature in explanation, that is, explaining the higher in terms of the lower. They also agreed with the likes of Wallace and Huxley, in giving a special place to ethics in the evolutionary process. They disagreed because of the wedge they perceived them to be driving between nature and spirit. The British Idealists begin with the principle of unity and contend that nature and spirit are continuous, and while nature is not intelligent, it is intelligible only to the human mind. Nature and Spirit are mutually dependent and to assert the reality of one over the other is to make abstractions of both. In fully acknowledging spirit in the evolutionary process they were able to reconcile their religious consciousness and the idea of freedom with the theory of evolution.
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