Harry Burrows Acton

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Harry Burrows Acton (1908 – 1974) was a British political philosopher. . He was known for books defending the morality of capitalism, and attacking Marxism-Leninism. He in particular produced arguments on the incoherence of Marxism, 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, Hegel, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, F. H. Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet and Sidney Webb.

Career & Affiliations

Acton had teaching positions at the London School of Economics, Bedford College, the University of Edinburgh where he was Chair of Moral Philosophy from 1964-1973[1] and the University of Chicago. He was editor of Philosophy, the prestigious journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy of which he was for a time Director[2]. Acton was also the President of the Aristotelian Society between 1952 and 1953[3] and a member of the Mont Pelerin Society


  • 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)


  1. ^University of Edinburgh 'Some Notes on the History of the Philosophy Department' retrieved July 11 2007 from http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk/info/history.html
  2. ^The Royal Institute of Philosophy 'Historical Note' retrieved July 11th 2007 from http://www.royalinstitutephilosophy.org/about/historical.htm
  3. ^The Aristotelian Soceity 2007 'Past Presidents of the Society' retrieved July 11th 2007 from http://www.aristoteliansociety.org.uk/about/about_past_presidents.html