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Calderwood, Henry (DNB01)

CALDERWOOD, HENRY (1830–1897), philosopher, born on 10 May 1830 at Peebles, where his forefathers had lived for generations, was the son of William Calderwood and his wife, Elizabeth Mitchell. He was baptised in the East United Presbyterian—now the Leckie memorial—church, Peebles. In his boyhood his parents removed to Edinburgh, where his father became a corn merchant, and he received his early education at the Edinburgh high school. He studied at the university of Edinburgh with a view to the ministry. His attention was chiefly devoted to philosophy, and he came second in Sir William Hamilton's prize list in 1847. In the logic class in 1860 his name appears next to that of John Veitch [q. v.] He entered the theological hall of the United Presbyterian Church in 1851, and was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Edinburgh in January 1856. In 1854, while still a student, he published 'The Philosophy of the Infinite.' This work, which has reached a fourth edition, is a criticism of the agnostic tendencies of Sir William Hamilton's philosophy in his lectures and in 'The Philosophy of the Conditioned.' In opposition to Sir William Hamilton, who taught that though we must believe in the Infinite we can have no knowledge of its nature, Calderwood maintained that a partial and ever-extending knowledge of God the Infinite One is possible for man, and that faith in Him implies knowledge. It was a daring undertaking for a youth thus to enter the lists against the most experienced and accomplished meta-physician of his day, but it was generally acknowledged that in the essence of the contention at least the pupil had scored against his professor, and the learning, courage, and logical acumen of the young author at once placed him among the foremost of the philosophic thinkers of his time.

On 16 Sept. 1856 Calderwood was ordained minister of Greyfriars church, Glasgow, in succession to David King [q. v.] By his clear incisive preaching and his efficient pastoral work Calderwood maintained the honour and strength of the church over which he had been placed, and when he left it after twelve years' ministry it was compact, well organised, and prosperous. Calderwood threw himself heartily into many political and religious movements intended to benefit his fellow citizens, especially the lower classes of Glasgow. There was scarcely an organisation of a philanthropic nature in the city that did not receive his ready advocacy and help, and when he left Glasgow for Edinburgh he received a public testimonial from the citizens in token of their appreciation of his services. In 1861 Calderwood was elected examiner in philosophy to the university of Glasgow; that university conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. in 1865; and in 1866, pending the appointment of a successor to William Fleming and the introduction of Professor Edward Caird, now master of Balliol College, Oxford, he conducted the moral philosophy classes in Glasgow. In 1868 he was appointed to the chair of moral philosophy in the university of Edinburgh. His systematic teaching was on the lines of the Scottish philosophy and against all Hegelian tendencies, and he showed how philosophical studies could be pursued in a devout spirit. At an early period in his work as a professor the newer evolutionary science then rising into prominence engaged his attention, and he tried to discover and explain the bearings of physiological science on man's mental and moral nature. The physiology of the brain and nervous system was closely studied, and in 1879 he published 'The Relations of Mind and Brain,' which has reached a third edition. In 1881 he published his Morse lectures on 'The Relations of Science and Religion,' originally delivered in connection with the Union Theological Seminary, New York, and afterwards redelivered in Edinburgh. 'Evolution and Man's Place in Nature' was published in 1893, and enlarged in 1896. In these works Calderwood tried to prove that the primary function of brain is to serve, not as an organ of thought but as an organ of sensory-motor activity. He believed it to be demonstrated by physiology that the direct dependence of mind on brain was confined to the sensory-motor functions, the dependence of the higher forms of mental activity being on the other hand only indirect. He endeavoured to establish the thesis that man's intellectual and spiritual life as we know it is not the product of natural evolution, but necessitates the assumption of a new creative cause. The success of his work as professor was demonstrated by the extremely large proportion of the Ferguson scholarships in philosophy, open to all the Scottish universities, which his students gained. He was fond of the Socratic or catechetical method of instruction, and encouraged the students to express difficulties and objections. Calderwood occupies a distinctive and original place in the temple of Scottish philosophy.

But, besides his work as a professor, Calderwood took an active interest in political, philanthropic, educational, and religious matters in Edinburgh. In 1869 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He was the first chairman of the Edinburgh school board, elected in 1873, and on his retirement from the post in 1877 he received an address from the public school teachers of the city. He was repeatedly asked to stand as a candidate for parliament for the southern division of Edinburgh, and was at the time of his death chairman of the North and East of Scotland Liberal Unionist Association. In 1870 he was elected a ruling elder in Morningside United Presbyterian church, Edinburgh, and up to the end was seldom absent from the annual meetings of synod. He sat on the mission board of his church for three terms of four years, and in 1880 he was elected moderator of synod. Questions of temperance reform, Presbyterian union, foreign missions, and kindred subjects received his warm and powerful advocacy. For some years he was editor of the 'United Presbyterian Magazine.' He received the freedom of Peebles, his native town, in 1877. In 1897 he was presented with a handsome testimonial by the residents and visitors at Carr Bridge, Inverness-shire, for conducting religious services during several holiday seasons and for other acts of piety and benevolence. He died at Edinburgh on 19 Nov. 1897. In 1867 he married Anne Hulton Leadbetter, who survives him. A portrait, painted in 1897 by Sir George Reid, R.S.A., is in the possession of his widow.

Besides the works already mentioned and pamphlets and articles in magazines. Professor Calderwood published: 1. 'Handbook of Moral Philosophy,' 1872, now in its 17th edit., and widely used in Britain and America. 2. 'Teaching, its End and Means,' 1874, now in the 4th edit. 3. 'The Parables of Our Lord,' 1880: and, posthumously, 4. 'David Hume,' in 'Famous Scots Series,' 1898.

[In 1900 appeared the Life of Professor Calderwood by his son, Mr. W. C. Calderwood of the Fishery Board for Scotland, and the Rev. David Woodside, B.D., with a special chapter on his Philosophical Works by A. Seth Pringle-Pattison, LL.D. Other sources of information are the United Presbyterian Magazines and Missionary Records, and personal knowledge.]

T. B. J.