Category Archives: C. D. Broad

C. D. Broad

My impression is that there was for Wittgenstein little or no region intermediate between a state of high and-concentrated seriousness and rather simple and sometimes almost crudely ‘low-brow’ interludes. I suspect that this, rather than the alleged ‘artificiality’ of the conversation at the High Table of Trinity, made the latter so distasteful to Wittgenstein. That conversation is the talk of men, all fairly eminent in their respective subjects, relaxing after a fairly tiring day’s work. It presupposes common traditions, going back to undergraduate days, and habitual ‘family’ jokes and allusions, and it moves in a sphere equally remote from high seriousness and from horseplay. A major prophet may be an excellent fellow, but he will hardly make an excellent Fellow. And, to pass from the general to the particular, one for whom philosophy is a way of life will find it difficult to associate on easy terms with those (like myself) for whom it is primarily a means of livelihood.

C. D. Broad, Review of Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, Universities Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 3 (May, 1959), p. 306

C. D. Broad

I will now say something of what happened to me from and including my 80th birthday up to the end of 1968. I will begin with my 80th birthday.

December 30th., 1967 naturally began with showers of congratulatory letters and telegrams, and with some gifts. Among these, I will single out for mention a telegram from Bertrand Russell, a card of good wishes from the Kitchen Staff, and the gift of a beautiful silver penknife from Dr Husband.

At 4.20 pm, Bradfield fetched me in his car to his home, where I had tea with him and his wife and his son (“The Nord’). There was a superb cake with 80 candles, all of which I managed to blow out with one breath. (The practice of emitting hot air, of which philosophy so largely consists, had no doubt been a good training for me.)

C. D. Broad, ‘Autobiographical Notes’, in Joel Walmsley (ed.) Broad’s Unpublished Writings, London, 2022, pp. 82–83

C. D. Broad

[D]id Bacon provide any logical justification for the principles and methods which he elicited and which scientists assume and use? He did not, and he never saw that it was necessary to do so. There is a skeleton in the cupboard of Inductive Logic, which Bacon never suspected and Hume first exposed to view. Kant conducted the most elaborate funeral in history, and called Heaven and Earth and the Noumena under the Earth to witness that the skeleton was finally disposed of. But, when the dust of the funeral procession had subsided and the last strains of the Transcendental Organ had died away, the coffin was found to be empty and the skeleton in its old place. Mill discretely closed the door of the cupboard, and with infinite tact turned the conversation into mote cheerful channels. Mr Johnson and Mr Keynes may fairly be said to have reduced the skeleton to the dimensions of a mere skull. But that obstinate caput mortuum still awaits the undertaker who will give it Christian burial. May we venture to hope that when Bacon’s next centenary is celebrated the great work which he set going will be completed; and that Inductive Reasoning, which has long been the glory of Science, will have ceased to be the scandal of Philosophy?

C. D. Broad, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, an address delivered at Cambridge on the occasion of the Bacon Tercentenary, 5 October 1926, Cambridge, 1926, pp. 66–67

C. D. Broad

Readers who have derived their ideas of Victorian Nonconformity and the middle-class Victorian home mainly from the novels and plays of left-wing writers of some fifty years ago, will be apt to jump to the conclusion that life in my grand-parents’ house was a drab and stuffy existence, punctuated by religious exercises, to which resentful and hypocritical children were driven by fanatical and gloomy parents. They had better dismiss that romantic rubbish from their minds at once.

C. D. Broad, ‘Autobiography’, in Paul A. Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, New York,1959, p. 10

C. D. Broad

This gigantic tome (it is of about the same size as a volume of the Encyclopædia Britannica in the ordinary edition) contains Boseovich’s chief work in Latin with an English translation on the opposite pages. The text is that of the Venetian edition of 1703, the translation has been made by Mr. J. M. Child. Dr. Branislav Petronievie of the University of Belgrade provides a short life of Boscovich and Mr. Child writes an introduction in which he states and explains the main outlines of Boscovich’s theory of nature.

The expenses of publication have been partly met by the government of the new kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. So far as I am aware, this is the only instance on record in which one of the succession states of the late Austrian empire has done anything which can be counted to its credit. It is a little pathetic that patriotic Jugo-Slavs should have had to take Boscovich as their leading representative in Science, for it is admitted that he left his native land as a boy and only returned to it once for a few months. He is said to have been acquainted with the Serbo-Croatian tongue, but he had the good sense to write nothing whatever in it. M. Petronievie makes the best of a bad job by saying that, ‘although Boscovich had studied in Italy and passed the greater part of his life there, he had never penetrated to the spirit of the language’. We may, perhaps, conclude that the Serbo-Croatian genius has not blossomed very freely in science when such a very indirect representative has had to be chosen for the purpose of patriotic ‘boosting’.

Setting these nationalist absurdities aside, we may say that Boscovich was undoubtedly a great man, and that it was well worth while to produce an edition of his works for the use of English readers. It seems a pity that the volume should be so extremely unhandy; it is better adapted to form part of a bomb-proof shelter than of a library. But the binding and printing are excellent. So far as I (who can make no claim to be an accurate Latin scholar) can judge, the translation is quite satisfactory. Mr. Child’s introduction is both interesting and helpful; and I am afraid that many readers will be tempted to read it and leave Boscovich’s own exposition to take care of itself.

C. D. Broad, Review of R. J. Boscovich, Theoria philosophiae naturalis, Mind, vol. 32, no. 127 (July, 1923), p. 374

C. D. Broad

Philosophy is essentially a middle-aged man’s game, though certain philosophers (notably Plato and Kant) have put up their best performances when they were well past middle life. Those of us who are not Platos or Kants are well advised to retire gracefully before they have too obviously lost their grip. Medical science would almost have made the world safe for senility, if physics had not made it unsafe for everybody; and there are far too many old clowns arthritically going through their hoops, to the embarrassment of the spectators:

From X’s eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And Y expires a driveller and a show.

My younger colleagues would have no difficulty in substituting appropriate constants for the variables in these lines. Moreover, though philosophies are never refuted, they rapidly go out of fashion, and the kind of philosophy which I have practised has become antiquated without having yet acquired the interest of a collector’s piece:

New forms arise, and different views engage,
Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage.

So this veteran now definitely makes his last bow as a professional performer, though he may occasionally make a graceful appearance “by request” at a matinee for charity.

C. D. Broad, ‘A Reply to My Critics’, in Paul A. Schilpp (ed.) The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, New York, 1959, pp. 711-830

C. D. Broad

Experience as a member of many committees in Cambridge and elsewhere has taught me the desirability of retiring before one has become too ‘ga-ga’ to realize just how ‘ga-ga’ one is becoming. I am now approaching the end of my 83rd year, and prudence and laziness combine in advising me not to expose myself further in print.

C. D. Broad, ‘Preface’, in David Cheney (ed.), Broad’s Critical Essays in Moral Philosophy, New York, 1971, p. 15

C. D. Broad

I must confess that I am not the kind of person whom I like, but I do not think that that source of prejudice has made me unfair to myself. If there should be others who have roses to strew, they can now do so without feeling the need to make embarrassing qualifications.

C. D. Broad, ‘Autobiography’, in Arthur Schilpp (ed.), The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, New York, 1959, p. 68

C. D. Broad

Another apparent paradox in McTaggart’s opinions was that he was as strongly ‘liberal’ in university politics as he was ‘conservative’ in national politics. He was, e.g. a strong feminist in the matter of the admission of women to full membership of the university. This paradox, however, depends largely on the usage of words. There is no essential connexion between liberalism and the view that men and women should be educated together, or between conservatism and the view that they shoud be educated separately. Nor is there any essential connexion between liberalism and the view that the colleges should be subordinated to the university, or between conservatism and the view that the university should be subordinated to the colleges. Yet those who hold the first alternative on these two subjects are called ‘academic liberals’, whilst those who hold the second are called ‘academic coonservatives’. There is thus no kind of inconsistency between academic liberalism and political conservatism, or between academic conservatism and political liberalism. If there were more men like McTaggart, who considered each question on its merits instead of dressing himself in a complete suit of ready-made opinions, such combinations would be more frequent than they are, to the great benefit of both academic and national politics.

C. D. Broad, ‘John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart, 1866-1925’, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 13 (1927), pp. 307-334

C. D. Broad

Finally I would say that, for me at any rate, the five years which I have spent in wrestling with McTaggart’s system and putting the results into writing have been both pleasant and intellectually profitable. I derive a certain satisfaction from reflecting that there is one subject at least about which I probably know more than anyone else in the universe with the possible exception of God (if he exists) and McTaggart (if he survives).

C. D. Broad, Examination of McTaggart’s Philosophy, vol. II, pt. I, Cambridge, 1938, p. lxxiv

C. D. Broad

[A] religious enthusiast demands very much less proof for the alleged miracles of his own religion than for those of any other religion or for quite ordinary stories about everyday affairs. (I myself have a Scottish friend who believes all the miracles of the New Testament, but cannot be induced to believe, on the repeated evidence of my own eyes, that a small section of the main North British Railway between Dundee and Aberdeen consists of a single line.)

C. D. Broad, ‘Hume’s Theory of the Credibility of Miracles’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, vol. 17 (1916-1917), p. 81

C. D. Broad

My duties as Tarner Lecturer and as Lecturer in the Moral Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, began together and overlapped during the Michaelmas term of 1923. It was therefore impossible for me to devote as much time to the preparation of the Tarner Lectures as I could have wished; and I was profoundly dissatisfied with them. So I determined to spend the whole of the Long Vacation of 1924, and all my spare time in the Michaelmas term of that year, in rewriting what I had written, and in adding to it. However bad the book may seem to the reader, I can assure him that the lectures were far worse; and however long the lectures may have seemed to the audience, I can assure them that the book is far longer.

C. D. Broad, The Mind and its Place in Nature, London, 1925, p. vii

C. D. Broad

When I ask my expert colleagues whether I can safely accept Eddington’s conclusions in these matters, they always answer in the negative. But this does not satisfy me. For I am quite convinced that their unfavourable answer is not based on a first-hand study of the arguments. It is quite plain that their attitude may be summed up in the sentence: “This kind of thing must be wrong somewhere; but I can’t be expected to waste my valuable time in finding out precisely where the mistake lies.”

C. D. Broad, ‘Sir Arthur Eddington’s The Philosophy of Physical Science’, Philosophy, vol. 15, no. 59 (1940), p. 312

C. D. Broad

It seems to me that many theories of the universe may be dismissed at once, not as too good, but as too cosy, to be true. One feels sure that they could have arisen only among people living a peculiarly sheltered life at a peculiarly favourable period of the world’s history. No theory need be seriously considered unless it recognises that the world has always been for most men and all animals other than domestic pets a scene of desperate struggle in which great evils are suffered and inflicted. No theory need be seriously considered unless it recognises how utterly alien most of the non-human life even on this small planet is to man and his ideals; how slight a proportion ostensibly living matter bears to the matter which is ostensibly inanimate; and that man himself can live and thrive only by killing and eating other living beings, animal or vegetable. Any optimism which is not merely silly and childish must maintain itself, if it can, in spite of and in conscious recognition of these facts.

C. D. Broad, Examination of McTaggart’s Philosophy, Cambridge, 1938, vol. 2, p. 774

C. D. Broad

In the controversies of party politics, which move at the intellectual level of a preparatory school, it is counted a score against a man if he can be shown ever to have altered his mind on extremely difficult questions in a rapidly changing world. In the less puerile realm of science and philosophy it is not considered disgraceful to learn as well as to live, and this kind of stone has no weight and is not worth throwing.

C. D. Broad, Examination of McTaggart’s Philosophy, Cambridge, 1938, vol. 2, p. lxxiii

C. D. Broad

It is plain that Absolutism is the philosophical expression of an aspect of reality which has profoundly impressed some of the greatest thinkers in all parts of the world and at all periods of human history. If the Vedantists, Plotinus, Spinoza, and Hegel (to mention no others) all talked what appears, when literally interpreted, to be nonsense, it is surely a most significant fact that men of such high intelligence and of such different races and traditions should independently have talked such very similar nonsense. Dr Tennant, in his Philosophical Theology, after quoting a characteristic passage from Jakob Boehme, as characteristically remarks that “the critic does well to call nonsense by its name”. No doubt he does. But he does not do so well if he ignores the problem presented by the concurrence of so much similar nonsense from so many independent and intellectually respectable sources. To me, for one, this fact strongly suggests that there is a genuine and important aspect of reality, which is either ineffable, or, if not, is extremely hard to express coherently in language which was, no doubt, constructed to deal with other aspects of the universe.

C. D. Broad, Examination of McTaggart’s Philosophy, Cambridge, 1933, vol. 1, pp. li-lii.

C. D. Broad

If we compare McTaggart with the other commentators on Hegel we must admit that he has at least produced an extremely lively and fascinating rabbit from the Hegelian hat, whilst they have produced nothing but consumptive and gibbering chimeras. And we shall admire his resource and dexterity all the more when we reflect that the rabbit was, in all probability, never inside the hat, whilst the chimeras perhaps were.

C. D. Broad, ‘Introduction’, in John McTaggart, Some Dogmas of Religion, London, 1930, p. xxxi

C. D. Broad

[T]he Utilitarian cannot confine himself to a single mind; he has to consider what he calls “the total happiness of a collection of minds”. Now this is an extremely odd notion. It is plain that a collection cannot literally be happy or unhappy. The oddity is clearly illustrated if we […] use the analogy of greyness. Suppose that a number of different areas, which are not adjoined to each other, all go through successive phases of greyness. What could we possibly mean by “the total whiteness of this collection of areas”?

C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, London, 1930, pp. 248-249

C. D. Broad

It appears to me that the best preparation for original work on any philosophic problem is to study the solutions which have been proposed for it by men of genius whose views differ from each other as much as possible. The clash of their opinions may strike a light which will enable us to avoid the mistakes into which they have fallen; and by noticing the strong and weak points of each theory we may discover the direction in which further progress can be made.

C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, London, 1930, pp. 1-2

C. D. Broad

Among the things which we can to some extent influence by our actions is the number of minds which shall exist, or, to be more cautious, which shall be embodied at a given time. It would be possible to increase the total amount of happiness in a community by increasing the numbers of that community even though one thereby reduced the total happiness of each member of it. If Utilitarianism be true it would be one’s duty to try to increase the numbers of a community, even though one reduced the average total happiness of the members, so long as the total happiness in the community would be in the least increased. It seems perfectly plain to me that this kind of action, so far from being a duty, would quite certainly be wrong.

C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, London, 1930, pp. 249-250

C. D. Broad

Let us now sum up the theoretical differences which the alternatives of Mechanism and Emergence would make to our view of the external world and of the relations between the various sciences. The advantage of Mechanism would be that it introduces a unity and tidiness into the world which appeals very strongly to our aesthetic interests. On that view, when pushed to its extreme limits, there is one and only one kind of material. Each particle of this obeys one elementary law of behaviour, and continues to do so no matter how complex may be the collection of particles of which it is a constituent. There is one uniform law of composition, connecting the behaviour of groups of these particles as wholes with the behaviour which each would show in isolation and with the structure of the group. All the apparently different kinds of stuff are just differently arranged groups of different numbers of the one kind of elementary particle; and all the apparently peculiar laws of behaviour are simply special cases which could be deduced in theory from the structure of the whole under consideration, the one elementary law of behaviour for isolated particles, and the one universal law of composition. On such a view the external world has the greatest amount of unity which is conceivable. There is really only one science, and the various “special sciences” are just particular cases of it. This is a magnificent ideal; it is certainly much more nearly true than anyone could possibly have suspected at first sight; and investigations pursued under its guidance have certainly enabled us to discover many connexions within the external world which would otherwise have escaped our notice. But it has no trace of self-evidence; it cannot be the whole truth about the external world, since it cannot deal with the existence or the appearance of “secondary qualities” until it is supplemented by laws of the emergent type which assert that under such and such conditions such and such groups of elementary particles moving in certain ways have, or seem to human beings to have, such and such secondary qualities; and it is certain that considerable scientific progress can be made without assuming it to be true. As a practical postulate it has its good and its bad side. On the one hand, it makes us try our hardest to explain the characteristic behaviour of the more complex in terms of the laws which we have already recognised in the less complex. If our efforts succeed, this is sheer gain. And, even if they fail, we shall probably have learned a great deal about the minute details of the facts under investigation which we might not have troubled to look for otherwise. On the other hand, it tends to over-simplification. If in fact there are new types of law at certain levels, it is very desirable that we should honestly recognise the fact. And, if we take the mechanistic ideal too seriously, we shall be in danger of ignoring or perverting awkward facts of this kind. This sort of over-simplification has certainly happened in the past in biology and physiology under the guidance of the mechanistic ideal; and it of course reaches its wildest absurdities in the attempts which have been made from time to time to treat mental phenomena mechanistically.

C. D. Broad, The Mind and Its Place in Nature, London, 1937, pp. 76-77

C. D. Broad

(i) Any society in which each member was prepared to make sacrifices for the benefit of the group as a whole and of certain smaller groups within it would be more likely to flourish and persist than one whose members were not prepared to make such sacrifices. Now egoistic and anti-social motives are extremely strong in everyone. Suppose, then, that there had been a society in which, no matter how, there had arisen a strong additional motive (no matter how absurd or superstitious) in support of self-sacrifice, on appropriate occasions, by a member of the group for the sake of the group as a whole or for that of certain smaller groups within it. Suppose that this motive was thereafter conveyed from one generation to another by example and by precept, and that it was supported by the sanctions of social praise and blame. Such a society would be likely to flourish, and to overcome other societies in which no such additional motive for limited self-sacrifice had arisen and been propagated. So its ways of thinking in these matters, and its sentiments of approval and disapproval concerning them, would tend to spread. They would spread directly through conquest, and indirectly by the prestige which the success of this society would give to it in the eyes of others.

(ii) Suppose, next, that there had been a society in which, not matter how, a strong additional motive for unlimited self-sacrifice had arisen and had been propagated from one generation to another. A society in which each member was as ready to sacrifice himself for other societies and their members as for his own society and its members, would be most unlikely to persist and flourish. Therefore such a society would be very likely to succumb in conflict with one of the former kind.

(iii) Now suppose a long period of conflict between societies of the various types which I have imagined. It seems likely that the societies which would still be existing and would be predominant at the latter part of such a period would be those in which there had somehow arisen in the remote past a strong pro-emotion towards self-sacrifice confined within the society and a strong anti-emotion towards extending it beyond those limits. Now these are exactly the kinds of society which we find existing and flourishing in historical times.

The Neutralist might therefore argue as follows. Even if Neutralism be true, and even if it be self-evident to a philosopher who contemplates it in a cool hour in his study, there are powerful historical causes which would tend to make certain forms of restricted Altruism or qualified Egoism seem to be true to most unreflective persons at all times and even to many reflective ones at most times. Therefore the fact that common-sense rejects Neutralism, and tends to accept this other type of doctrine, is not a conclusive objection to the truth, or even to the necessary truth, of Neutralism.

C. D. Broad, ‘Self and Others’, in David R. Cheney (ed.), Broad’s Critical Essays in Moral Philosophy, London, 1971, pp. 281-282

C. D. Broad

The pleasure of pursuit will not be enjoyed unless we start with at least some faint desire for the pursued end. But the intensity of the pleasure of pursuit may be out of all proportion to the initial intensity of the desire for the end. As the pursuit goes on the desire to attain the end grows in intensity, and so, if we attain it, we may have enjoyed not only the pleasure of pursuit but also the pleasure of fulfilling a desire which has become very strong. All these facts are illustrated by the playing of games, and it is often prudent to try to create a desire for an end in order to enjoy the pleasures of pursuit. As Sidgwick points out, too great a concentration on the thought of the pleasure to be gained by pursuing an end will diminish the desire for the end and thus diminish the pleasure of pursuit. If you want to get most pleasure from pursuing X you will do best to try to forget that this is your object and to concentrate directly on aiming at X. This fact he calls “the Paradox of Hedonism.”

It seems to me that the facts which we have been describing have a most important bearing on the question of Optimism and Pessimism. If this question be discussed, as it generally is, simply with regard to the prospects of human happiness or misery in this life, and account to be taken only of passive pleasures and pains and the pleasures and pains of fulfilled or frustrated desire, it is difficult to justify anything but a most gloomy answer to it. But it is possible to take a much more cheerful view if we include, as we ought to do, the pleasures of pursuit. From a hedonistic standpoint, it seems to me that in human affairs the means generally have to justify the end; that ends are inferior carrots dangled before our noses to make us exercise those activities from which we gain most of our pleasures; and that the secret of a tolerably happy life may be summed up in a parody of Hegel’s famous epigram about the infinite End, viz., “the attainment of the infinite End just consists in preserving the illusion that there is an End to be attained.”

C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, London, 1930, pp. 191-192