Broad, Charlie Dunbar (1887-1971), philosopher

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Broad, Charlie Dunbar (1887-1971), philosopher

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        Charlie Dunbar Broad was born on 30 Dec 1887 at Harlesden in Middlesex. After boarding at a preparatory school, he went in 1900 to Dulwich College and in 1906 obtained a Major Scholarship to Trinity. In 1908 Broad was placed in the first class in Part I of the Natural Science tripos; he then switched to Moral Sciences and in 1910 gained a first with distinction. In the same year Broad won the Burney Prize, for which the subject was Lotze's philosophy of religion. He submitted his winning essay as his entry for a prize fellowship at Trinity, but was unsuccessful in what was not really a serious attempt. In 1911, in consultation with J. E. McTaggart and Bertrand Russell he submitted a dissertation on the philosophy of mechanics and was elected a Junior Research Fellow.

        Before the results of the election were announced, Broad was appointed assistant lecturer at St Andrews under G. F. Stout and, as his Fellowship did not require that he reside, was able to undertake both appointments. In 1914 he moved to Dundee, which was then part of St Andrews, and during WWI he divided his time between lecturing at the former and doing war-work at the latter. In 1920 he was elected to the chair of philosophy at Bristol, where he remained for only two years as in 1922 he was invited by Trinity not only to give the second course of Tarner lectures but also to replace McTaggart on the teaching staff. Broad remained at Cambridge for the rest of his life. He was appointed lecturer in Moral sciences in 1926, was Sidgwick Lecturer from 1931 to 1933 and was Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy from 1933 to 1953, when he retired from University office with positive pleasure.

        For the duration of his University tenure Broad lectured to Moral Science students, usually giving three series of lectures each year, Elements of Philosophy for students of Part I, and lectures on Modern Philosophy and on a special topic for students of Part II. Broad's lecture style was characterised by the fact that he wrote each lecture out and read it verbatim to his class, repeating each sentence twice. In this way, he not only produced well ordered lectures but was easily able to edit them when he thought that they warranted publication. Indeed, the majority of major works that bear Broad's name, whether published in his lifetime or posthumously, were fashioned in this way.

        Broad's first major work was Perception, Physics, and Reality, published in 1914, which was based very much on his fellowship dissertation. Scientific Thought, the result of conversations with Stout, followed in 1923 and Broad's Tarner Lectures were published in 1925 as The Mind and Its Place in Nature. There followed The Philosophy of Francis Bacon in 1926, The Nature of Existence, volume II, in 1927, Five Types of Ethical Theory in 1930, An Examination of McTaggart's Philosophy in 1933 and 1938, Determinism, Indeterminism, and Libertarianism in1934, Ethics and the History of Philosophy in 1952, Religion, Philosophy, and Psychical Research in 1953, and Induction, Probability, and Causation: Selected Papers in 1968. Leibniz: An Introduction and Kant: An Introduction were edited after Broad's death by Casimir Lewy.

        Broad also published widely on the subject of psychical research. Following in the tradition of Myers and Sidgwick, he joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1920 and was its President in 1935 and 1958. In his autobiography, Broad makes no claims for psychical phenomena other than the necessity of probing beyond the limits of man's understanding of himself.


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            Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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