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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Arthur Aston Luce, Professor at Trinity College

arthur-aston-luceArthur Aston Luce, professor of philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin, and also Precentor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1952–1973), is born in Gloucester, England on August 21, 1882. He holds many clerical appointments, including Vice-Provost of Trinity from 1946 to 1952. He is widely known as an authority on the philosopher George Berkeley. His fellowship of Trinity College from 1912 to 1977 is a record.

Luce is the fourth son of the Reverend John James Luce and Alice Luce (née Stubbs). He is educated at Lindley Lodge School and Eastbourne College. He enters Trinity College, Dublin in 1901. He obtains his BA in 1905, BD in 1908 and MA in 1911.

Luce’s earlier work focuses largely on theological matters within Christianity. His academic career is interrupted by World War I, in which he serves with the 12th Royal Irish Rifles. He is awarded the Military Cross in 1917. After the war, he publishes “Monophysitism Past and Present” (1921) which deals with the nature of Jesus and his relationship to the world. The following year, he publishes his Donnellan Lectures on Henri Bergson where he examines issues in psychology and evolution as well as religion.

From the 1930s, Luce becomes interested in the Irish philosopher George Berkeley. He feels many of the previous studies of Berkeley are in many ways inadequate and sometimes wrong. His unearthing of new sources on Berkeley as well as better ways of interpreting existing sources guide his work in this direction. He stresses the role of the French monk Nicolas Malebranche on influencing the thought of the young Berkeley. Prior to his Berkeley and Malebranche (1934), Berkeley had been seen almost solely in the patrimony of John Locke and empiricism.

Berkeley’s mature philosophy is given lucid exposition by Luce in his 1945 work “Berkeley’s Immaterialism”. Along with Thomas Edmund Jessop, he edits The Works of George Berkeley (in nine volumes, 1948–1957).

Luce is not only a Berkeley scholar but comes to be a believer in Berkelianism itself. In “Sense without Matter” (1954) he attempts to bring Berkeley up to date by modernising the philosophers vocabulary and putting the issues Berkeley faced in today’s terms.

Berkeley’s personal reputation among historians and the public is also an area which Luce feels needs correcting and updating. Some studies of Berkeley had contributed to his reputation as a dreamer or a loner who often hid his real views. Luce’s “Life of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne” (1949) takes aim at this picture of Berkeley and, by careful use of often new sources, paints a more grounded picture of the man.

In 1918, Luce marries Lilian Mary Thomson, with whom he has three children. Tragically, his wife and young daughter drown in 1940. His elder son, Professor John Victor Luce (1920–2011), is also an academic at Trinity and also serves as vice-provost.

Luce dies in Dublin on June 28, 1977 shortly after an assault by a man who has an antipathy towards clergymen.


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Death of Philosopher George Berkeley

george-berkeleyGeorge Berkeley, Irish philosopher whose primary achievement is the advancement of a theory he calls “immaterialism” (later referred to as “subjective idealism” by others), dies in Oxford, England, on January 14, 1753. His theory of immaterialism denies the existence of material substance and instead contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers and, as a result, cannot exist without being perceived. Berkeley is also known for his critique of abstraction, an important premise in his argument for immaterialism.

Berkeley is born at his family home, Dysart Castle, near Thomastown, County Kilkenny, the eldest son of William Berkeley, a cadet of the noble family of Berkeley. He is educated at Kilkenny College and attends Trinity College, Dublin, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1704 and completing a master’s degree in 1707. He remains at Trinity College after completion of his degree as a tutor and Greek lecturer.

In 1709, Berkeley publishes his first major work, An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision, in which he discusses the limitations of human vision and advances the theory that the proper objects of sight are not material objects, but light and colour. This foreshadows his chief philosophical work, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, in 1710, which, after its poor reception, he rewrites in dialogue form and publishes under the title Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous in 1713.

In this book, Berkeley’s views are represented by Philonous, while Hylas embodies the Irish thinker’s opponents, in particular John Locke. Berkeley argues against Sir Isaac Newton‘s doctrine of absolute space, time, and motion in De Motu (On Motion), published in 1721. His arguments are a precursor to the views of Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein. In 1732, he publishes Alciphron, a Christian apologetic against the free-thinkers, and in 1734, he publishes The Analyst, a critique of the foundations of calculus, which is influential in the development of mathematics.

His last major philosophical work, Siris (1744), begins by advocating the medicinal use of tar water and then continues to discuss a wide range of topics, including science, philosophy, and theology. Interest in Berkeley’s work increases after World War II because he tackles many of the issues of paramount interest to philosophy in the 20th century, such as the problems of perception, the difference between primary and secondary qualities, and the importance of language. It sold more copies than any of his other books during his lifetime.

In 1734, Berkeley is appointed Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland, a position he holds until his death. He remains at Cloyne until 1752, when he retires and goes to Oxford to live with his son and supervise his education. He dies soon afterward and is buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

The Berkeley portion of the Yale University campus is named after George Berkeley.


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Birth of Joseph Stock, Bishop of Waterford & Lismore

joseph-stockJoseph Stock, Irish Protestant churchman and writer, Bishop of Killala and Achonry, and afterwards Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, is born at 1 Dame Street, Dublin, on December 22, 1740.

Stock is the son of Luke and Ann Stock. He is educated at Mr. Gast’s school in his native city and at Trinity College, Dublin. He obtains a scholarship in 1759, graduates B.A. in 1761, and gains a fellowship in 1763. Having taken orders, Stock retires on the college living of Conwall in the diocese of Raphoe.

Stock is a classical scholar, a linguist, and a man of general culture. In 1776 he publishes anonymously a life of George Berkeley, subsequently republished in the Biographia Britannica, the only memoir on Berkeley based on contemporary information.

In 1793 Stock is collated prebendary of Lismore, but resigns this preferment in 1795, on his appointment to the head-mastership of Portora Royal School. In January 1798 he succeeds John Porter as Bishop of Killala and Achonry. Shortly after his consecration, and while holding his first visitation at the castle of Killala, the bishop becomes a prisoner of the French army under General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert, when French forces land in support of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Of his experiences as a prisoner of the French he leaves a partial record in his private diary — August 23 to September 15, 1798 — which is printed in William Hamilton Maxwell‘s History of the Rebellion of 1798, and in two letters to his brother Stephen, published in the Auckland Correspondence.

In 1799 Stock publishes a more complete account of the French invasion of County Mayo in his Narrative of what passed at Killala in the Summer of 1798. By an Eyewitness. The impartiality of this work is said to have been a bar to the bishop’s advancement. He also writes The Book of the Prophet Isaiah in Hebrew and English, with Notes (Bath, 1803) and The Book of Job metrically arranged and newly translated into English, with Notes (Bath, 1805).

Stock also publishes school editions of Tacitus and Demosthenes, and is an active contributor to the controversial theology of his day. He leaves two manuscript volumes of correspondence which are preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. They consist chiefly of letters written from Killala and Waterford between 1806 and 1813 to his son Henry in Dublin.

In 1810 Stock is translated to the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, and dies at Waterford on August 13, 1813.