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08 May

Borne to Dialectics

Ireland may claim the distinction of having produced three philosophers, each of whom formed an epoch in the history of thought. Johannes Scotus Eriugena, the founder of the Scholastic system—— Hutcheson, the father of the modern School of Speculative Philosophy in Scotland—— and Berkeley, the first who explicitly maintained a Theory of Absolute Idealism—— were all men of Irish birth, and were marked, in a greater or less degree, by the peculiar characteristics of Irish genius.

It has frequently been observed that the genius of the Irish people is naturally borne to dialectics. The author of Hudibras, indeed, selects ‘the Wild Irish’ as the types of that mystic learning and occult philosophy that he ridicules in Ralpho. Nor was this the mere fancy of the poet. As early as the time of Charles the Bold, the contemporary chronicler speaks of the multitude of philosophers, who, like Scotus, crossed the sea from Ireland. At a later period, Bayle speaks of the Hiberians as renouned for able logicians and metaphysicians; and Stewart describes them as distinguished in all the Continental Universities for their proficiency in the scholastic logic. And the facts justify the statement […]

The Irish logician, in fact, was as ubiquitous as the Irish soldier of fortune.

The opening sentences of The veil of Isis: a series of essays on idealism (1872) by Thomas E. Webb (1885 edition available on archive.org). As well as the (Catholic) scholastics, Webb goes on to praise Trinity College Dublin and those associated with it such as Berkeley, Browne, Burke, King and Dodwell, and closes with a nod to Lecky. Born in Cornwall on 8th May 1821, he clearly became a strong advocate of both Trinity College Dublin and Irish philosophy.

Hudibras is a mock heroic poem on the Civil War by Samuel Butler. Charles the Bold is probably a typo for Charles the Bald, Bayle was a 17th century French philosopher and Stewart probably the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart.

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