H. B. Acton

H. B. Acton

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Harry Burrows Acton was a British academic in the field of political philosophy
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

, known for books defending the morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 of capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, and attacking Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

. He in particular produced arguments on the incoherence of Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, which he described as a 'farrago' (in philosophical terms). His book The Illusion of the Epoch, in which this appears, is a standard point of reference. Other interests were the Marquis de Condorcet
Marquis de Condorcet
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

, Hegel, John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

, Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

, F. H. Bradley
F. H. Bradley
Francis Herbert Bradley, OM, was a British idealist philosopher.- Life :Bradley was born at Clapham, Surrey, England . He was the child of Charles Bradley, an evangelical preacher, and Emma Linton, Charles's second wife. A. C. Bradley was his brother...

, Bernard Bosanquet
Bernard Bosanquet (philosopher)
Bernard Bosanquet was an English philosopher and political theorist, and an influential figure on matters of political and social policy in late 19th and early 20th century Britain...

 and Sidney Webb.

He had teaching positions at the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

, Bedford College, the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

 where he was Professor of Moral Philosophy, and the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. He was editor of Philosophy, the journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy
Royal Institute of Philosophy
The Royal Institute of Philosophy, founded in 1925, is a charity organisation based in London that offers lectures and conferences on philosophical topics. The Institute is not committed to any particular philosophical school, method or ideology...

, of which he was for a time Director. He was president of the Aristotelian Society
Aristotelian Society
The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880, at 17 Bloomsbury Square which resolved "to constitute a society of about twenty and to include ladies; the society to meet fortnightly, on Mondays at 8 o'clock, at the rooms of the Spelling...

from 1952 to 1953.


  • The Illusion of the Epoch:Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed (1955)
  • The Philosophy of Language in Revolutionary France (1959) Dawes Hicks Lecture of the British Academy
  • What Marx Really Said (1967)
  • Philosophy of Punishment (1969) editor
  • Kant's moral philosophy (1970)
  • The Morals of Markets: an Ethical Exploration (1971) essays edited by David Gordon and Jeremy Shearmur
  • The Right to Work and the Right to Strike (1972)
  • The ethics of capitalism (The Company and its Responsibilities) (1972)
  • The idea of a spiritual power: 1973 Auguste Comte memorial trust lecture (1974)

External links

  • H.B. Acton, The Illusion of the Epoch: Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). See original text in The Online Library of Liberty.