Richard Whately (February 1, 1787 – October 8, 1863) was an English logician, educator, social reformer, economist and theological writer, and Anglican archbishop of Dublin (1831–1863). Whately’s two standard texts, Elements of Rhetoric (1828) and Elements of Logic (1826), are considered largely responsible for the revival of the study of logic in England in the early part of the nineteenth century. Whately took a practical, almost business-like view of Christianity, but his religious feeling was very real and genuine. He applied logic to Christian faith, which he regarded as essentially a belief in certain matters of fact, to be accepted or rejected after an examination of "evidences."
Whately was a liberal theologian and actively supported the removal the political restrictions placed on English Catholics, who at that time were not permitted to hold public office, and state endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy. Even more radically, he spoke out in favor of granting of civil rights to Jews. As Archbishop of Dublin, he collaborated with the Catholic archbishop of Dublin on a nonsectarian program of religious instruction for both Protestant and Roman Catholic children.
Whately was critical of Ricardian economic theory, and elaborated the rudiments of a subjective theory of value. In opposition to the labor theory of value, Whately argued that, "It is not that pearls fetch a high price because men have dived for them; but on the contrary, men dive for them because they fetch a high price." Whately also argued that economics should be renamed catallactics, the "science of exchanges." He also actively involved himself in social issues and served as president (1835–36) of the royal commission on the Irish poor, which called for major improvements in agriculture rather than the introduction of workhouses for the impoverished.
Richard Whately was born on February 1, 1787, in London, England, the youngest of nine children of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Whately. As a child, he spent most of his days in his grandfather's garden, daydreaming and studying insects. At the age of nine, his parents sent him to a private school outside Bristol, and in April 1805, Whately was accepted into Oriel College, Oxford, under the tutelage of Edward Copleston. He obtained double second-class honors and the prize for the English essay; in 1811, Whately’s diligence as a student resulted in what he viewed as his highest personal achievement, being elected a fellow of Oriel College. In 1814, he took holy orders. While at Oxford, he wrote his satiric Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte (1819), a clever jeu d'ésprit directed against excessive skepticism towards Gospel history.
After his marriage in 1821, he settled in Oxford, and in 1822, was appointed Bampton lecturer. The lectures, On the Use and Abuse of Party Spirit in Matters of Religion, were published in the same year. In August 1823, he moved to Halesworth in Suffolk, was appointed principal of St. Alban Hall, Oxford, in 1825, and became professor of political economy at the university four years later.
In 1825, he published a series of Essays on Some of the Peculiarities of the Christian Religion, followed in 1828, by a second series, On Some of the Difficulties in the Writings of St. Paul, and in 1830, by a third, On the Errors of Romanism Traced to Their Origin in Human Nature. While he was at St Alban Hall (1826), his most famous work, his treatise on Logic, appeared as a contribution to the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. It raised the study of logic to a new level, and gave an impetus to the study of logic throughout Britain. A similar treatise on Rhetoric, also contributed to the Encyclopaedia, appeared in 1828.
In 1829, Whately succeeded Nassau William Senior to the professorship of political economy at Oxford. His tenure of office was cut short by his appointment to the archbishopric of Dublin in 1831. He published only one course of Introductory Lectures (1831), but one of his first acts when he established himself in Dublin was to endow a chair of political economy in Trinity College, Dublin.
Whately's appointment by Lord Grey to the see of Dublin came as a great surprise to everybody, for though a decided Liberal, Whately had remained aloof from political parties, and ecclesiastically many of his opinions were unpopular with one group or another. The Evangelicals regarded him as a dangerous latitudinarian for his views on Catholic emancipation, the Sabbath question, the doctrine of election, and certain quasi-Sabathian opinions he was supposed to hold about the character and attributes of Christ; while his view of the church was diametrically opposed to that of the High Church party, and from the beginning he was the determined opponent of what was afterwards called the Tractarian movement. The appointment was challenged in the House of Lords, but without success. In Ireland, it was unpopular among the Protestants, for the reasons mentioned and because the appointment was made by an Englishman and a Whig.
Whately's bluntness and his lack of a conciliatory manner prevented him from eradicating these prejudices. At the same time, he met with determined opposition from his clergy. He enforced strict discipline in his diocese; and he published a statement of his views on the Sabbath (Thoughts on the Sabbath, 1832). He took a small place at Redesdale, just outside Dublin, where he could garden.
In 1829, he had spoken out in favor of removing the political restrictions placed on English Catholics, who at that time were not permitted to hold public office. Together with the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, he devised a nonsectarian program of religious instruction as part of an Irish national school curriculum for both Protestant and Roman Catholic children. His scheme of religious instruction for Protestants and Catholics alike was carried out for a number of years, but in 1852, it broke down owing to the opposition of the new Catholic archbishop of Dublin, and Whately felt obliged to withdraw from the Education Board.
Whately also involved himself in social questions: He served as president (1835–36) of the royal commission on the Irish poor, which called for major improvements in agriculture rather than the introduction of workhouses for the impoverished. Questions of tithes, reform of the Irish church and of the Irish Poor Laws, and, in particular, the organization of national education occupied much of his time. He discussed other public questions, for example, the subject of transportation of criminals and the general question of secondary punishments.
In 1837, Whately wrote his well-known handbook of Christian Evidences, which was translated during his lifetime into more than a dozen languages. At a later period he also wrote, in a similar form, Easy Lessons on Reasoning, on Morals, on Mind and on the British Constitution. Among his other works may be mentioned Charges and Tracts (1836), Essays on Some of the Dangers to Christian Faith (1839), The Kingdom of Christ (1841). He also edited Bacon's Essays, Paley's Evidences and Paley's Moral Philosophy.
From the beginning, Whately was a keen-sighted observer of the "condition of Ireland" question, and gave offense by supporting state endowment of the Catholic clergy. During the terrible years of 1846 and 1847, the archbishop and his family tried to alleviate the miseries of the people.
From 1856, Whately began to suffer from a paralysis of the left side. Still he continued the active discharge of his public duties till the summer of 1863, when he was prostrated by an ulcer in the leg, and after several months of acute suffering, he died on October 8, 1863.
Whately was a great talker, and during his early life he loved to argue, using others as instruments on which to hammer out his own views. As he advanced in life, he adopted a style of didactic monologue. His keen wit frequently inflicted wounds which he never deliberately intended, and he loved punning. Whately often offended people by the extreme unconventionality of his manners. When at Oxford, his white hat, rough white coat, and huge white dog earned for him the sobriquet of the “White Bear,” and he outraged the conventions of Oxford by exhibiting the exploits of his climbing dog in Christchurch Meadow. He had a fair and lucid mind, but was opinionated, and his outspokenness on points of difference alienated many. Having no tendency towards mysticism, he found the Tractarian movement incomprehensible and regarded it with dislike and contempt. The doctrines of the Low Church party also seemed to him tinged with superstition.
He took a practical, almost business-like view of Christianity, which seemed to High Churchmen and Evangelicals alike little better than Rationalism, but his religious feeling was very real and genuine. He may be said to have continued the typical Christianity of the eighteenth century, when theologians attempted to fight the Rationalists with their own methods of logic. Whately regarded faith as essentially a belief in certain matters of fact, to be accepted or rejected after an examination of "evidences." His works on faith were appeals to the logical mind, and his Christianity inevitably appeared as a thing of the intellect rather than of the heart. Whately's qualities are exhibited at their best in his Logic. He wrote nothing better than the Appendix to this work on Ambiguous Terms.
Whately’s two standard texts, Elements of Rhetoric (1828) and Elements of Logic (1826), are considered largely responsible for the revival of the study of logic in England in the early part of the nineteenth century. His logic was largely Aristotelian, but explicitly followed Locke in many respects. Elements of Logic became a standard textbook for several generations and Elements of Rhetoric was also published in many editions.
Whately was also the author of numerous books, essays, and pamphlets in politics, economics, and religion. His witty work, Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte (1819), aimed at extreme skeptics, argued that, if one were to adopt Hume's criteria for judging the reliability of testimony, which was being used to cast doubts on the miracles in the Bible, one could deny that Napoleon had ever existed.
A proponent of liberal theology, Whately actively supported Catholic emancipation and the granting of civil rights to Jews. Whately can be regarded the "founder" of the Oxford-Dublin school of proto-Marginalists. A critic of Ricardian theory, in his lectures on economics Whately proposed the rudiments of a subjective theory of value. In opposition to the labor theory of value, Whately argued that, "It is not that pearls fetch a high price because men have dived for them; but on the contrary, men dive for them because they fetch a high price." Whately also argued that economics be should be renamed catallactics, the "science of exchanges."
In 1864, his daughter published Miscellaneous Remains from his commonplace book, and in 1866, his Life and Correspondence in two volumes. The Anecdotal Memoirs of Archbishop Whately, by WJ Fitzpatrick (1864), provides insight into his character.
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