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(wiki says there was an Eddington mission too no longer valid), viz.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
[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
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)
Odd, but as Riley would say, _true_! -- Cheers,
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