web analytics
23 Dec

Liberty, Control, Meaning

[Liberty is] the power that is in man to assume control of his existence, to give it a deliberate meaning, and to become fully engaged with it.

Edwin Rabbitte (1959) “Liberty, Personality, Morality”, Philosophical Studies, vol. 9, pp. 36-48. Quote from p. 43.

17 Dec

Philosophy’s Two-Way Movement

There is a two-way movement in philosophy, a movement towards the building of elaborate theories, and a move back again towards the consideration of simple and obvious facts. McTaggart says that time is unreal. Moore replies that he has just had his breakfast. Both these aspects of philosophy are necessary to it.

Iris Murdoch, “The Idea of Perfection”, in The Sovereignty of Good (Routledge Classics, p. 1)

08 Dec

Frozen in Time: the Edward Worth Library

The Edward Worth Library (c) Irish Philosophy (CC BY)

The Edward Worth Library
(c) Irish Philosophy (CC BY)

For most of the 20th century Dr Steevens’ Hospital was a working hospital housed in a hodgepodge of buildings. After its closure in 1987 the 19th and 20th century buildings were cleared away to reveal the original hospital, first opened in 1733 through the efforts of Griselda Steevens. An important player in the history of medicine in Ireland, it is now an administrative centre for the Health Service Executive. Except for a brief period in the late 1980s and early 1990s it has housed a beautifully preserved early 18th century collection of books: The Edward Worth Library.

Entrance to Dr Steeven's Hospital (c) Irish Philosophy

Entrance to Dr Steevens’ Hospital
(c) Irish Philosophy

The library is the only room in the building that still carries out the purpose for which it was designed. Edward Worth (1678-1733) was a trustee for Dr Steevens’ Hospital and left the institution £1,000 and his library, valued at £5,000. Anxious not to divert money from the care of poor patients, Edward Worth also provided for the set-up of the library. The executor paid £100 to fit out the room allocated to the library, receiving 1,000 books from John Worth’s collection in return (these were ultimately left by him to Trinity in 1742).
Read More

04 Dec

That Speech that Professor Tyndall Made

The scientific naturalists, especially Huxley and Tyndall, were able to dominate the politics of science when they were at the height of their power in the 1870’s and 1880’s. They were able to challenge the scientific, and even the cultural, authority of the Anglican clergy. Through their lectures and writings they encouraged the Victorian public to question widely held beliefs about the nature of society, the place of humanity in nature, and the role of religion in a modern, industrialized world. As a result, the Belfast Address was seen as a momentous cultural event well beyond the 1870’s. Almost thirty years later it seemed to symbolize how scientific naturalism had turned the Victorian world upside down. The playwright George Bernard Shaw summed up its enduring significance in his Man and Superman (1903). “It’s a very queer world,” remarks Mrs. Whitefield, who is bewildered by the complicated behavior of the younger generation. “It used to be so straightforward and simple; and now nobody seems to think and feel as they ought. Nothing has been right since that speech that Professor Tyndall made at Belfast” (4.237).

Lightman, Bernard. “On Tyndall’s Belfast Address, 1874.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History, Dino Franco Felluga (ed). [online here]