Green, Thomas Hill

Green, Thomas Hill,

1836–82, English idealist philosopher. Educated at Oxford, he was associated with the university all his life. He was professor of moral philosophy there from 1878 until his death. In his Introduction to Hume's Treatise on Human Nature (1874), Green struck a heavy blow at traditional British empiricism. Rejecting sensationalism, he argued that all reality lies in relations, that relations exist only for a thinking consciousness, and that therefore the world is constituted by mind. In his Prolegomena to Ethics (1883) Green submitted an ethics of self-determination, which he epitomized in the phrase "Rules are made for man and not man for rules." Self-determination is present when humanity is conscious of its own desires, and freedom occurs when people identify themselves with what they consider morally good. Green's ethics are believed to have influenced, among others, John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead. Politically, Green was a liberal; he asserted that government must represent the general will and that when it fails to do so it should be changed. See his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (1895).


See M. Richter, The Politics of Conscience: T. H. Green and His Age (1983).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Green, Thomas Hill


Born Apr. 7. 1836. at Birkin. Yorkshire; died Mar. 26, 1882, at Oxford. English idealist philosopher. Representative of neo-Hegelianism. From 1878 professor at Oxford University.

Under the influence of German classical idealism, and especially of Hegel’s philosophy, Green opposed the positivism of J. Mill and H. Spencer, which at that time dominated English philosophical thought. He called for a rejection of the philosophical tradition that began with J. Locke and D. Hume and for a return to the philosophy of absolute idealism. Green believed that reality is a system of relations created by an eternal self-consciousness, by god, and that the individual consciousness is secondary to this eternal consciousness. In ethics. Green rejected utilitarianism, regarding morality as the self-determination of the individual will, which identified with the demands of existing society. He reduced the progress of society to the progress of the self-consciousness of individuals. Green’s works were published posthumously.


Works, 3rd ed.. vols. 1–3. London, 1906.


Debol’skii. N. G. “Grin, kak metafizik.” In the collection Novye idei v filosofii, vol. 17. St. Petersburg. 1914.
Bogomolov, A. S. Anglo-amerikanskaia burzhuaznaia filosofiia epokhi imperializma. Moscow. 1964. Pages 60–62.
Lamont, W. D. Introduction to Green’s Moral Philosophy. London [1934].
Richter, M. The Politics of Conscience: T. H. Green and His Age. Cambridge, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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