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Placing William Forster Lloyd in context

English, Irish and Subversives among the Dismal Scientists

ISBN: 978-0-85724-061-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-062-0

ISSN: 0743-4154

Publication date: 23 December 2010


There is no exaggeration in the claim that abstract-deductive political economy in pre-Tractarian Oxford was driven by Richard Whately and hence centred at Oriel College. At this time Oriel was defined by a group of intellectuals now commonly referred to as the Oriel Noetics, of whom Whately was one, and the nature of Oxford political economy in the opening decades of the nineteenth century (including William F. Lloyd's contribution to it) cannot be understood outside the context of the intellectual tradition established by the Oriel Noetics. The Noetics were unconventional reformist clerics (one could not use the slippery mid-Victorian word ‘liberal’, as they were predominantly conservative Whigs or reform-minded Tories of the Pitt mould, in which order and tradition were maintained through moderate, but not radical, change); admired rational thought and absent-mindedly tested social conventions with their speech; were unafraid to question religious shibboleths if they deemed them bereft of scriptural foundation (such as Sabbatarianism); deployed logical processes to bolster their religious beliefs, which they held in an unsentimental fashion, and thereby to some extent practised that most contradictory of creeds, a logical faith; and, most importantly for this chapter, constructed a Christian Political Economy by dichotomising knowledge into a theological domain, in which they inferred from scriptural evidence that individuals should pursue the ends of attaining specific virtues (not utility!), and a scientific domain, in which they deduced scientific laws that would enable individuals to achieve the ends of attaining these virtues. They looked upon the rising Romantic Movement in general and the spiritualist yearnings of the Oxford Tractarians in particular with simple incomprehension, if not disgust. They deplored with equal measure the Evangelicals' enthusiasms, willing incogitency and lack of institutional anchor, yet sought to establish a broader national church that included dissenters (but not Catholics). They were most prominent in the 1810s and 1820s before colliding violently in the 1830s with, and being sidelined by, the Tractarians, many of whom they had, ironically enough, mentored and promoted.2


Moore, G.C.G. and White, M.V. (2010), "Placing William Forster Lloyd in context", Allington, N.F.B. and Thompson, N.W. (Ed.) English, Irish and Subversives among the Dismal Scientists (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 28 Part 2), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 199-241.



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