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Pringle Pattison

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Title: Pringle Pattison  
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Subject: Thomas Hill Green
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Pringle Pattison

Andrew Seth (1856, Edinburgh – 1931, The Haining, Selkirkshire), who changed his name to Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison to fulfill the terms of a bequest, was a Scottish philosopher.[1] His brother was James Seth, also a philosopher.

Their father, Smith Kinmont Seth, was the son of a farmer from Fife and a bank clerk in the head office of the Commercial Bank of Scotland. Their mother, Margaret, was the daughter of Andrew Little a farmer from Berwickshire. An elder brother died in infancy,


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 20th century.

Seth was a personal idealist and was critical of Absolute idealism, according to Seth personality should not be merged into the Absolute.[2] Seth's views have also been described as panentheistic.[3]

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."[4] 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 effect 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 claims of Gabriel Tarde, F. H. Bradley, and Josiah Royce.


  • T H Green (1883)
  • (1887)
  • a comparison of the Scottish and German answers to Hume (second edition 1890)
  • (1897)
  • , with chapters reprinted on the philosophy of religion in Kant and Hegel (1907)
  • Gifford Lectures(1917)
  • Gifford Lectures (1922)
  • Studies in the Philosophy of Religion (1930)
  • edited with a Memoir of the Author by G F Barbour (1933)


Further Reading

  • biographical notes on the Gifford Lectures website
  • Denis Maria Gallagher Pringle-Pattison's Idea of God 1933
  • Hugh Joseph Tallon The concept of self in British and American idealism 1939

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