Henry Calderwood (1830-1897)

Henry Calderwood was Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh for almost thirty years. Born at Peebles in the Scottish Borders, he was educated at the Royal High School before entering the University of Edinburgh. Having studied for the ministry of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland he was ordained minister of the Greyfriars Church in Glasgow in 1856. From 1861 to 1864 he served as an examiner in Mental Philosopher at the University of Glasgow, and then from 1866 conducted the moral philosophy classes there. In 1868 he left the parish ministry to become Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh where he remained until his death in 1897. Among his most gifted students was James Seth, who relinquished his Professorship at Cornell to become Calderwood’s successor in the Edinburgh Chair.

Henry Calderwood published several books on a wide variety of philosophical, religious and educational subjects. His first and best known philosophical work was The Philosophy of the Infinite (1854), in which he attacked Sir William Hamilton’s contention that we can have no knowledge of the Infinite. He wrote A Handbook of Moral Philosophy as a textbook for students in Edinburgh. It ran to several editions and was very widely adopted, especially in North America. On the Relations of Mind and Brain, Science and Religion, The Evolution of Man's Place in Nature were all devoted to different aspects of the science/religion debate which dominated much of the world of ideas in later 19th century Scotland. Calderwood held that evolution and theism are compatible. Just before his death he finished a Life of David Hume in the Famous Scots series. In it he attempted to put Hume’s reputation as a skeptic in proper perspective, and argued that Hume’s Dialogues were not as antithetical to religion as had commonly been thought. Calderwood was first chairman of the Edinburgh School Board, a philanthropist, temperance campaigner, and a Liberal Unionist at the time of the Home Rule Bill. He was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by Glasgow in 1865.

Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary