Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

Scottish metaphysician (1788-1856)
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Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet (8 March 1788 – 6 May 1856) was a Scottish metaphysician.

Sir William Hamilton.


  • However arid and uninviting the prospect of a History of Medicine may appear at a distance, it will be found gradually to improve, and become full of interest wonder and animation as we proceed. ...The History of Medicine is ...the history of the human species, uncontaminated by those civil discords and fearful atrocities, those crimes and disorders which blot the page of other histories, and stamp man, created in the image of his maker, with the visage of a fiend and the heart of a brute. The History of Medicine, on the contrary, is the history of peace and good will, of endless harmony, and unceasing philanthropy. Instead of recording the desolations of war, and the growth of immorality—the deadly effects of human passions, and the bloody triumphs of senseless ambition—her province is to note the diminution of mortal suffering; and the only triumphs which she records are those obtained over sickness, death, and Sorrow.
    • The History of Medicine, Surgery, and Anatomy, from the Creation of the World, to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century (1831), Vol. 1
  • The discovery of the art of Printing unbarred afresh the gates of Heaven, and let in that flood of light, of knowledge, and of wisdom, which enabled men to emancipate themselves again from the slavery of superstition—to take their proper place in the ranks of created beings—and in ennobling themselves, in gradually exalting their understandings and amending their hearts, to pay at length the worthiest homage to the goodness of their common Parent, and prove themselves to be—as the Almighty himself originally formed them—inferior only to the Angels.
    • The History of Medicine, Surgery, and Anatomy, from the Creation of the World, to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century (1831), Vol. 1
  • Analysis and synthesis, though commonly treated as two different methods, are, if properly understood, only the two necessary parts of the same method. Each is the relative and correlative of the other. Analysis, without a subsequent synthesis, is incomplete; it is a mean cut off from its end. Synthesis, without a previous analysis, is baseless; for synthesis receives from analysis the elements which it recomposes.
    • Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic: "6th Lecture on Metaphysics", p. 69, ed. 1871, Boston; partly reported in Austin Allibone ed. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. (1903), p. 34
  • Be sober, and to doubt prepense,
    These are the sinews of good sense.
    • Notes on Reid, from the Fragments of Epicharmus, 255.
  • The primary principle of education is the determination of the pupil to self-activity — the doing nothing for him which he is able to do for himself.
    • As quoted by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895). p. 573.
  • Truth like a torch, the more 'tis shook, it shines.
    • Discussions on Philosophy, Title Page, reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 818-22.

Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1860) Vol. 1

A source
  • The one condition under which all powers, and consequently the intellectual faculties, are developed, is exercise.
  • The question—Is Truth, or is the Mental Exercise in the pursuit of truth, the superior end?—this is perhaps the most curious theoretical, and certainly the most important practical, problem in the whole compass of philosophy.
  • "Sordet cognita veritas" is a shrewd aphorism of Seneca. A truth, once known, falls into comparative insignificance.
  • [T]he sciences always studied with keenest interest are those in a state of progress and uncertainty: absolute certainty and absolute completion would be the paralysis of any study; and the last worst calamity that could befall man... would be that full and final possession of speculative truth, which he now vainly anticipates as the consummation of his intellectual happiness.
  • "In life," as the great Pascal observes, "we always believe that we are seeking repose, while, in reality, all that we ever seek is agitation."
  • The past does not interest, the present does not satisfy, the future alone is the object which engages us.
  • [I]n the very term Philosophy... the man who first declared that he was not a... possessor, but a... seeker of truth, at once enounced the true end of human speculation, and embodied it in a significant name.
  • Plato defines man "the hunter of truth," "for science is a chase, and in a chase the pursuit is always of greater value than the game."
  • "The intellect," says Aristotle... "is perfected, not by knowledge but by activity..." and... "The arts and sciences are powers, but every power exists only for the sake of action; the end of philosophy... is not knowledge, but the energy conversant about knowledge."
  • "The intellect," says Aquinas, "commences in operation, and in operation it ends..."
  • Scotus... declares that a man’s knowledge is measured by the amount of his mental activity...
  • On this ground I would rest one of the pre-eminent utilities of mental philosophy. That it comprehends all the sublimest objects of our theoretical and moral interest; that every (natural) conclusion concerning God, the soul, the present worth and the future destiny of man, is exclusively deduced from the philosophy of mind, will be at once admitted.
  • [T]he paramount end of liberal study is the development of the student’s mind, and... knowledge is principally useful as a mean of determining the faculties to that exercise, through which this development is accomplished... the main duty of a Professor to consist not simply in communicating information, but in doing this in such a manner... that the information he conveys may be the occasion of awakening his pupils to a vigorous and varied exertion of their faculties.
  • Strictly speaking, every one must educate himself.
  • [U]niversities... have gradually allowed to fall into disuse the powerful means which they possess of rousing the pupil to exertion, and have been too often content to act as mere oral instruments of information...
  • [I]nstruction is only instruction as it enables us to teach ourselves.
  • The instructor... does not profess to teach philosophy, but to philosophise.

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