C. D. Broad

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Charlie Dunbar Broad (30 December 188711 March 1971) was an English epistemologist, historian of philosophy, philosopher of science, moral philosopher, and writer on the philosophical aspects of psychical research.


  • I understand that it is the wish of the Editor of this collection of essays that each contributor should describe his own system of philosophy. Were I to interpret this demand literally I could not contribute anything at all, for two excellent reasons. In the first place, I have nothing worth calling a system of philosophy of my own, and there is no other philosopher of whom I should be willing to reckon myself a faithful follower. If this be a defect I see no likelihood of its ever being cured. Secondly, if I had a system of my own, I should doubt the propriety of "pushing" my crude philosophical wares in competition with the excellent products of older firms with well-earned reputations.
    • From Critical and Speculative Philosophy (1924)
  • In the meanwhile I retire to my well-earned bath-chair, from which I shall watch with a fatherly eye the philosophic gambols of my younger friends as they dance to the highly syncopated pipings of Herr Wittgenstein's flute.
    • From the Preface to Mind and Its Place in Nature (1925)
  • Take an eighteenth century English whig. Let him be a mystic. Endow him with the logical subtlety of the great schoolmen and their belief in the powers of human reason, with the business capacity of a successful lawyer, and with the lucidity of the best type of French mathematician. Inspire him (Heaven knows how) in his early youth with a passion for Hegel. Then subject him to the teaching of Sidgwick and the continual influence of Moore and Russell. Set him to expound Hegel. What will be the result? Hegel himself could not have answered this question a priori, but the course of world history has solved it ambulando by producing McTaggart.
    • From John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart (1928)
  • If Hegel be the inspired and too often incoherent prophet of the Absolute, if Bradley be its chivalrous knight, McTaggart is its devoted and extremely acute family solicitor.
    • From John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart (1928)
  • It is to be feared that Spinoza would not have been enlightened enough to appreciate the beneficient system of the Ph.D. degree, introduced into English universities as a measure of post-war propaganda, whereby the time and energy of those who are qualified to do research are expended in supervising the work of those who never will be.
    • From Five Types of Ethical Theory (1930)
  • There is no important problem in any branch of philosophy which is not treated by Kant, and he never treated a problem without saying something illuminating and original about it. He was certainly wrong on many points of detail, and he may well be wrong in his fundamental principles; but, when all criticisms have been made, it seems to me that Kant’s failures are more important than most men’s successes.
    • From Five Types of Ethical Theory (1930)
  • Those who, like the present writer, never had the privilege of meeting Sidgwick can infer from his writings, and still more from the characteristic philosophic merits of such pupils of his as McTaggart and Moore, how acute and painstaking a thinker and how inspiring a teacher he must have been. Yet he has grave defects as a writer which have certainly detracted from his fame. His style is heavy and involved, and he seldom allowed that strong sense of humour, which is said to have made him a delightful conversationalist, to relieve the uniform dull dignity of his writing. He incessantly refines, qualifies, raises objections, answers them, and then finds further objections to the answers. Each of these objections, rebuttals, rejoinders, and surrejoinders is in itself admirable, and does infinite credit to the acuteness and candour of the author. But the reader is apt to become impatient; to lose the thread of the argument: and to rise from his desk finding that he has read a great deal with constant admiration and now remembers little or nothing. The result is that Sidgwick probably has far less influence at present than he ought to have, and less than many writers, such as Bradley, who were as superior to him in literary style as he was to them in ethical and philosophical acumen. Even a thoroughly second-rate thinker like T. H. Green, by diffusing a grateful and comforting aroma of ethical "uplift", has probably made far more undergraduates into prigs than Sidgwick will ever make into philosophers.
    • From Five Types of Ethical Theory (1930)
  • There certainly are changes of fashion in philosophy. When a new kind is in vogue, many things in the philosophy of an earlier day, which are of permanent value and perhaps highly relevant to contemporary problems, tend to be altogether forgotten or carelessly and ignorantly dismissed, simply because they occur in an out-of-date setting and are clad in an unfashionable dress. It is now quite certain that much of permanent value in Scholastic philosophy was ignored or contemned from this cause by Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and their followers. I have little doubt that the same is true mutatis mutandis of the attitude of many present-day philosophers towards the systems of monistic idealism which were fashionable at the beginning of this century. It is consoling to a philosopher's vanity not to pry too closely into the history of his subject, for otherwise he is liable to find that his discoveries have been anticipated and his fallacies refuted in advance by predecessors whom he has ignored or despised.
    • From Philosophy (I), in Inquiry (1), (1958)
  • It is true that our everyday view of the world is not quite naively realistic, but that is what it would like to be. Common-sense is naively realistic wherever it does not think that there is some positive reason why it should cease to be so. And this is so in the vast majority of its perceptions. When we see a tree we think that it is really green and really waving about in precisely the same way as it appears to be. We do not think of our object of perception being 'like' the real tree, we think that what we perceive is the tree, and that it is just the same at a given moment whether it be perceived or not, except that what we perceive may be only a part of the real tree.
    • Perception, Physics, and Reality : An Enquiry into the Information that Physical Science can Supply about the Real (1914), Ch. 1 : On The Arguments Against Naïf Realism Independent of the Causal Theory of Perception
  • Although people cannot define existence and do use the term with some looseness, yet it is possible to give an extensive definition by pointing to the sorts of things that everyone believes to exist. It is still easier to point to the sort of entities that people agree in believing not to exist, and happily, this is really what concerns us most. People mean by saying that causation only applies to things that exist that it applies, if at all, to what can change; and they believe that, if anything can change, it is things like chairs and tables and minds, and not those like the propositions of Euclid and the multiplication table. What would be agreed then is that, if causal laws apply to anything it is to what can change in so far as it changes.
    • Perception, Physics, and Reality : An Enquiry into the Information that Physical Science can Supply about the Real (1914), Ch. 2 : On Causation; and on the Arguments that have been used against Causal Laws
  • Induction is the glory of science and the scandal of philosophy.
    • Broad, C.D. (1926). The philosophy of Francis Bacon: An address delivered at Cambridge on the occasion of the Bacon tercentenary, 5 October, 1926. Cambridge: University Press, p. 67. The quotation is a paraphrase of the concluding sentence in the monograph: 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?

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