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Hamilton, Sir William, 1788-1856 (metaphysician )



  • Existence: 1788 - 1856


William Hamilton was born in Glasgow on 8 March 1788. He was educated at grammar school in Glasgow from 1797, and in 1800 began studies at the junior Greek and Latin classes at Glasgow University before attending schools at Chiswick and then at Bromley, Kent. He again studied at Glasgow University 1803-6, where he attended classes in logic and moral philosophy. A period at Edinburgh University followed, 1806-7, and there he studied medicine. He also studied at Balliol College, Oxford, 1807-10, and again at Edinburgh 1811-14. Hamilton was called to the Scottish Bar in 1813 and practised as an Advocate in Edinburgh until 1836. In 1820 he stood unsuccessfully for the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University, but was elected Professor of Civil History at the University in 1821. Around this time he had acquired an interest in phrenology, but after anatomical research of his own he became hostile to the science and engaged himself in controversy with phrenologist George Combe. In 1836, Hamilton was elected to the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University. He became partially paralysed in 1844 and this ill-health reduced his capacity somewhat. Although he wrote no systematic work, his philosophy can be gathered from Lectures and his Discussions in philosophy and literature, and from his criticism. Hamilton contributed to psychology and logic with his doctrines of the 'quantification of the predicate' and the 'unknowability of the infinite', and his theories of the association of ideas, of unconscious mental modifications, and the inverse relation of perception and sensation. He was the chief representative of the Scottish School of Philosophy. Professor Sir William Hamilton died in Edinburgh on 6 May 1856.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

"E. Divines, Metaphysicians, Philologists", 1805-1899

Identifier: Coll-1997/1
Scope and Contents This volume is entitled "E. Divines, Metaphysicians, Philologists" and contains 175 items: 118 autograph letters and documents 57 portraits, comprising 40 albumen print photographs, 16 engravings, and 1 lithograph. Ainger, Alfred. ALS to Katharine Lyell. 9 February 1885. 2 pp. Ainger is best known for his memoirs of English authors. Declining a dinner invitation, saying that being in Hampstead Heath he...
Dates: 1805-1899

Notes of lectures by Sir William Hamilton, taken down by D. Maclaren

Identifier: Coll-1897
Scope and Contents

Notes of lectures on Logic given by Sir William Hamilton, 1847-1848, taken down by D. Maclaren.

Dates: 1847-1848

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Archival Object 1
Collection 1
Engraving 1
Lithographs 1
Logic 1
Metaphysicians 1
Philologists 1