Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison


Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison

Andrew Seth (1856–1931), who changed his name to Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison to fulfill the terms of a bequest, was a Scottish philosopher.

Seth's twin enemies were English Empiricism and the Anglo variant of Hegelianism. According to Seth, both manner of philosophy degraded the independence of the individual. "Each self," he wrote in "Hegelianism and Personality," "is a unique existence, which is perfectly impervious ... to other selves -- impervious in a fashion of which the impenetrability of matter is a faint analogue." Seth's comments here stand in stark contrast to the British and American Hegelianism of the turn of the century. It was F. H. Bradley's and Josiah Royce's primary contention that the Self is permeable to all manner of imitation, and that the self as Seth describes is a harmful fiction. At the heart of Seth's analysis was a defense of the necessity of anthropomorphism, John Ruskin's "pathetic fallacy." "We are anthropomorphic," he affirmed, "and necessarily so, to the inmost fibre of our thinking." He continues: "Every category ... every description of existence or relation, is necessarily a transcript from our own nature and our own experience. Into some of our conceptions we put more, into others less, of ourselves; but all modes of existence and forms of action are necessarily construed by us in terms of our own life. Everything, down to the atom, is constructed upon the scheme of the conscious self, with its multiplicity of states and its central interpenetrating unity. We cannot rid our thought of its inevitable presupposition." Personality, the true a priori, stands walled off against external phenomenon either in terms of the Absolute, or from the influx of sensation. Seth's defense of personality had a dramatic impact on later, anti-Hegelian and pluralist, thinkers in the United States in particular. William James, George Santayana, Bertrand Russell and George Herbert Mead, all borrowed his concept of the personality, or psyche, and sought it as a barrier against the powerful claims of the imitative-suggestion School of Gabriel Tarde, early Sigmund Freud, F. H. Bradley, and Josiah Royce.

Works

*"Hegelianism and Personality" (1887)
*"Man's Place in the Cosmos" (1897)
*"The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy" (1917)
*"The Idea of Immortality" (1922)
*"Studies in the Philosophy of Religion" (1930)


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