Benjamin Jowett

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Logic is neither a science nor an art, but a dodge.

Benjamin Jowett (15 April 18171 October 1893) was a theologian and classical scholar who became one of the great public figures of Victorian England. He was Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford from 1855, Master of Balliol College, Oxford from 1870, and Vice-Chancellor of the university from 1882.


Doubt comes in at the window, when Inquiry is denied at the door.
  • Research! Research! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never achieve any results of the slightest value.
  • We have sought truth, and sometimes perhaps found it. But have we had any fun?
    • As quoted in Notebooks (1984) by Geoffrey Madan, p. 61
  • Learn just enough of the subject [metaphysics] to enable your mind to get rid of it.
    • As quoted in Notebooks (1984) by Geoffrey Madan, p. 61

On the Interpretation of Scripture (1860)[edit]

First published in the miscellany Essays and Reviews (1860)
  • Doubt comes in at the window, when Inquiry is denied at the door.
  • [The office of the interpreter] is to read Scripture like any other book.


The Letters of Benjamin Jowett (1899) edited by Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell
  • Nowhere probably is there more true feeling, and nowhere worse taste, than in a churchyard (p. 244).
  • I hope our young men will not grow into such dodgers as these old men are. I believe everything that a young man says to me (p. 250).
  • One man is as good as another until he has written a book.
  • Logic is neither a science nor an art, but a dodge.


  • We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice or kindness in general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique.
    • Actually from one of John Dewey's lectures, reprinted in his Reconstruction in Philosophy (2004), p. 96

Quotes about Jowett[edit]

  • Jowett, in his day, did probably more than any other single man to let some fresh air into the exhausted atmosphere of the [Oxford] common rooms, and to widen the intellectual horizons of the place.
  • First come I. My name is J–W–TT.
    There's no knowledge but I know it.
    I am the Master of this College,
    What I don't know isn't knowledge.
  • The [Oxford tourist] guide would begin: "This, ladies and gentlemen, is Balliol College, one of the very holdest in the huniversity, and famous for the herudition of its scholars. The 'ead of Balliol College is called the Master. The present Master of Balliol is the celebrated Professor Benjamin Jowett, Regius Professor of Greek. Those are Professor Jowett's study-windows, and there" (here the ruffian would stoop down, take up a handful of gravel and throw it against the panes, bringing poor Jowett, livid with fury, to the window) "ladies and gentlemen, is Professor Benjamin Jowett himself."
    • W S Walsh A Handy-book of Literary Curiosities (1893) pp. 640-1.

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