[hist-analytic] Waynflete

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Wed Jan 28 21:42:42 EST 2009

Or the Vagaries of Metaphysical Philosophy -- and her Detractors; 
or, The Importance of Being Plumian -- on the Cam
Thanks to Steve B. for his thoughts. Will go back to bed soon, but couldn't  
These Brits are _unique_. Led by S. B.'s comments, did a hasty search,  
learned that Eddington 'graduated' from Trinity (same as Russell's college) some  
10 years after Russell. Etc. And of course there's the overlap. More from  
Russell's side who kept reviewing Eddington's books -- at least two of them,  
available from google.books.
Apparently, Eddington disagreed, being a Quaker, with Russell's (or  
pre-Russellian) ideas on 'mind'. Eddington's word is 'spiritual'.
Apparently, Susan Stebbing 'destroyed' (but she had an awful sense of  
humour, apparently) 'Stanley' (as he was called by his mother)'s naive approach  to 
the 'two tables'. 
Apparently, Eddington did not have much of a sense of humour himself. Or so  
a socialite in Los Angeles remembers him. (In another google.book -- She 
recalls  how Eddington told her that he would swim on the Cam _every day_, come  
rain/shine/snow --). He was, also, a conscientious objector, etc. 
The gist of this note is to remember Plume. Eddington was _for years_, and  
you have to be Cantab. to enjoy this, I assume, "Plumian Professor of Astronomy 
 AND EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY". He was elected to this post early in 1913. 
Wiki  has an article on each of the two astronomy chairs at Cambridge: one is the 
 'astronomy AND GEOMETRY' (not Plumian) and the other is this one held by  
One would be curious as to the use of 'experimental philosophy' way back --  
when the chair was created. (I'm MORE familiar with the identically 
mediavelist  titles of some of the Oxonian chairs, like the Waynflete Chair of 
Metaphysical  Philosophy -- as opposed to _experimental_?
Anyway, the chair was created -- and Eddington, being a traditionalist,  
would rejoice in this -- in 1704 by one Thomas Plume, with a specific mission  
(wiki says there was an Eddington mission too no longer valid), viz. 
   "[a] to erect an Observatory 
     [b] to maintain a studious and 
         learned Professor of  Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy."
-- and studious and learned Eddington was. On a hasty reading, I first read  
the second aim above as being 'to maintain a studious and learned astronomy 
and  experimental philosophy", but it is to maintain a professor. Talk of  
Anyway, the hits for 'experimental philosophy' in the OED are not 113, but  
just 8. 
[To wit, under 1  1608    evince,  v.     ived Errors in  Experimental 
Philosophy .. shall  be evinced b  2  c1449    experimental, a. and  n.     b.  
experimental philosophy: (a) the philosophy  w  3  1663    materia medica,  n.     
athematics and  experimental philosophy.   4  a1398    natural, adj. and adv. 
     ics, medicine,  experimental philosophy, or occasionally natu 
5   a1393    natural philosophy, n.     n,  Natural and  Experimental 
Philosophy, the Mathematics, and  6   c1487    physics, n.     of physics, or   
experimental philosophy.  7  a1616    preformed,  adj.     he progress of  
experimental philosophy will  show you that it  8  1384    promoter,  n.     ed 
promoter of  experimental philosophy, Dr.  Wilkins.]
The most interesting one, apparently, under 'philosophy', where the OED  
provides the following cites for the collocation, 'experimental  philosophy':
1651 G. THOMSON (title), 
A vindication of Lord Bacon, the Auctor of Experimental Philosophy. 
1665 GLANVILL Sceps. Sci. 68 
All experimental philosophers have been needlessly imployed. 
1706 S. CLARKE 
On the Evidences Pref. Aiij, 
"Robert Boyle was..diligent and successful in improving experimental  
1809 Med. Jrnl. XXI. 175 
Lectures..at Guy's Hospital..[on] Experimental Philosophy. 
1819 Pantologia, Experimental Philosophy is an investigation of the wisdom  
of God in the works and laws of nature. 
1887 J. THOMAS Dict. Biog. I. 421 
Boyle..a celebrated chemist and experimental philosopher. 
1957 G. RYLE in C. A. Mace Brit. Philos. in Mid-Century 258 
A not very ancient Oxford Chair of Physics still retains its old label, the  
Chair of Experimental Philosophy. 
1796 BURKE Let. Noble Ld. Wks. VIII. 55 
As speculatists he [the Duke of Bedford] is a glorious subject for their  
experimental philosophy.

Must say my favourite is Ryle's! On a hasty reading of it, I thought he was  
referring to Cantab. but -- no. I wish I were more familiar with Oxford  
_physical_ chairs, and I would locate where this "not very ancient Oxford chair"  
is located. Note that Oxonians, being perhaps 'more of a philosophical talent'  
than Cantab. men, dropped "Astronomy and..." altogether! (* The ref. to  
'philosophical temperament' refers to Russell's characterisation of Eddington:  
"Like most men of a philosophical temperament, Eddington finds brute facts  
hateful", or words to that effect). 
If the Oxford chair, "Professor of Experimental Philosophy", was created in  
1865 with the appointment of Clifton (and the decision of Savilian professors) 
 then indeed, philosophically speaking, it's not that _ancient_.
Since I suppose we should be more metaphysical, I have titled this post,  
"Waynflete". And have you noticed that, as things are, we have now two  
    "He is the holder of the Oxford Chair of
     Experimental Philosophy"  -- uttered today,  2009   
                      +>  He's no philosopher, he is a physicist.
    "He is the holder of the Oxford Chair
     of Metaphysical Philosophy" -- uttered today, 2009 
                     +>  He's not just a metaphysician; he's a (full-blown) 
philosopher  _simpliciter_.
Odd, but as Riley would say, _true_! -- Cheers,
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