Minerva's Aviary

Minerva's Aviary: Philosophy at Toronto, 1843-2003

John G. Slater
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 550
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442677272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Minerva's Aviary
    Book Description:

    Philosophy has been taught at the University of Toronto, and its predecessor King's College, since 1843. While much has changed in that time, the university's Department of Philosophy remains one of Canada's preeminent institutions for philosophical instruction. InMinerva's Aviary, John G. Slater documents the history of Toronto's Philosophy Department from its founding to contemporary times.

    In the early years, the teaching of philosophy at the university was an appendage to courses in religion. As time passed however, the discipline grew into the independent, largely secular subject it is today. The story of how this happened is told in terms of the people who taught in the department. Slater also recounts the histories and sometimes difficult integration of the philosophy departments that came with the smaller institutions that federated with the university around the turn of the twentieth century: Victoria University, St. Michael's College, and Trinity College.

    Comprehensive and lovingly written,Minerva's Aviaryis the result of decades of research by one of the department's most esteemed recent scholars. Slater's intense investigations have uncovered a complex and evolving past that shatters some established myths but also roughly mirrors what was happening in universities throughout the English-speaking world. It thus adds greatly to our understanding of the intellectual history of the last two centuries.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7727-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    The present Department of Philosophy in the University of Toronto is one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of philosophy teachers in the English-speaking world, and in Canada it has long been the pre-eminent department. Its graduates have held or hold positions in nearly every university in the country, and, as a result, its influence on Canadian intellectual life has been of incalculable significance. This book tells the story from its origins in the first half of the nineteenth century to the early years of the twentieth-first century; from the efforts of a very few men lecturing to...

  5. 1 The Rise and Fall of King’s College
    (pp. 3-34)

    On 24 June 1792 John Graves Simcoe (1752–1806) arrived at Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to take up his appointment as the first lieutenant governor of the new province of Upper Canada, which had been founded the previous year and had a population of about 65,000. An old Etonian, Simcoe had attended Merton College, Oxford, for one year before he entered military service just in time to fight in the American War for Independence. Although wounded three times, once seriously, and held prisoner for six months, Simcoe had nevertheless enjoyed great personal success in that war, advancing from lieutenant to lieutenant...

  6. 2 The Founding Professor: James Beaven
    (pp. 35-94)

    On 15 February 1843 the Reverend James Beaven, D.D., arrived in Toronto with his wife and seven children, ranging in age from two to fifteen, to take up his position as professor of divinity, metaphysics and moral philosophy in the University of King’s College. They had been travelling since 8 December. Beaven was forty-one years of age when he elected to emigrate to Canada; he had been born on 9 July 1801 at Wes bury in Wiltshire. Being the second son in his family, he was probably destined for a career in the Church from birth. In his farewell sermon...

  7. 3 Teacher Extraordinary: George Paxton Young
    (pp. 95-137)

    George Paxton Young, the son of a Church of Scotland minister, was born in Berwick on Tweed in England near the Scottish border on 9 November 1818. After completing his elementary education locally, he studied at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, then one of the most celebrated preparatory schools in the British Isles. One of his schoolmates was Daniel Wilson, later president of the University of Toronto, with whom he cemented a life-long friendship. Following in the path of Wilson and many others, he enrolled in the University of Edinburgh, from which he was graduated with both bachelor’s and...

  8. 4 The Battle over Young’s Successor
    (pp. 138-167)

    When the shock caused by George Paxton Young’s death had subsided somewhat, the question of his successor took centre stage, and a battle royal erupted. First, the matter of a substitute lecturer for the remainder of the school year had to be settled, however, and the minister of education, George W. Ross, let President Daniel Wilson know that he would not appoint a clergyman to the position. This restriction ruled out the likeliest candidate, a former student of Young. When Wilson announced Ross’s policy to a meeting of the University College Council and in answer to a question replied that...

  9. 5 The Emergence of Psychology
    (pp. 168-209)

    For the first fifty years of university teaching in Canada every professor of philosophy claimed to teach psychology, although none of them used the word ‘psychology’ in either their own titles or in the names of their courses. For Egerton Ryerson, psychology was a branch of ‘moral science,’ which he regarded as ‘including mental science’ sometimes called ‘psychology.’ Beaven considered psychology to be a branch of metaphysics. James Gibson Hume contended that Beaven’s way of classifying psychology stemmed from the Scottish usage of the word ‘metaphysics,’ as meaning a course in general psychology and theory of knowledge. George Paxton Young...

  10. 6 ‘A Weakened Echo of Dr Young’: James Gibson Hume
    (pp. 210-236)

    James Gibson Hume was born on 12 September 1860, the son ofjames and Marion (Brown) Hume, whose claim to fame was that she was a second cousin of Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, thus making Hume himself a second cousin once removed of Burns. Although born near Toronto, Hume spent his childhood and youth on the family farm located at Shanty Bay near Barrie. His early education was gained in local schools, and he so excelled as a pupil that he was taken on as a teacher after he had learned what those schools had to teach him. In one...

  11. 7 Gentleman and Scholar: George Sidney Brett
    (pp. 237-277)

    George Sidney Brett was born at Britton Ferry in South Wales on 5 August 1879, the son of a Methodist preacher who had been born and raised in England. For this reason, Brett always considered himself an Englishman. Upon completing elementary school, he won a scholarship to Kingswood in Bath, the Methodist preparatory school founded by John Wesley him self, where he spent the next eight years. An outstanding pupil, he won a number of important prizes during these years, and he was named ‘Head Boy,’ an honour entitling him to have his name inscribed on the walls of the...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 8 Graduate Study in Philosophy
    (pp. 278-303)

    King’s College, which metamorphosed into the University of Toronto, offered an earned master of arts degree from its earliest days. On 19 October 1844 the college council laid down the requirements for the degree: ‘(1) having been admitted to the Degree of B.A.; (2) being of the standing of nine Terms from admission to that Degree; (3) having performed the appointed exercises.’ (UTA, MCKC). In those days there were three terms in an academic year, so a bachelor of arts had to wait three years before he was eligible to attempt a master’s degree. The ‘appointed exercises’ were set by...

  14. 9 The Last Autocrat: Fulton Henry Anderson
    (pp. 304-364)

    When George Sidney Brett died in October 1944, Fulton Anderson was appointed acting head of the department. The other professor, Reid MacCallum, who was Anderson’s junior in rank by nine years, was apparently not immediately considered for the position, but during the next several months, he may have been. In his contribution to the department’s oral history, David Savan recalled that during those months there seemed to be considerable uncertainty about the permanent appointment, and that after March 1945, when the announcement was made naming Anderson as the new head, he seemed greatly relieved, as he accepted the congratulations of...

  15. 10 The First Chairman: Thomas Anderson Goudge
    (pp. 365-415)

    Thomas Anderson Goudge was born on 19 January 1910 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and received his early education in Halifax Academy. Both his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees were earned at Dalhousie University. His principal teacher was Herbert Stewart who, by an irony of fate, had been Fulton Anderson’s mentor fifteen years earlier. Stewart had been educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, and his approach to philosophy was essentially a literary one. He insisted that his pupils acquire a solid grounding in ancient philosophy and British empiricism and he encouraged them to perfect their writing skills. Goudge responded by publishing several...

  16. 11 The Merging of the Streams
    (pp. 416-444)

    When the news spread, in the fall of 1967, that Thomas Goudge had resigned as chairman effective at the end of the next academic year, his colleagues, without exception, were astonished. Since he had been appointed to serve until he retired, everyone had assumed, given his strong sense of duty, that he would continue in office until the middle of 1975. But the adoption of the Haist Rules by the university in 1967 had ushered in important changes regarding departmental governance, of which Goudge was quick to take advantage. Headships of departments were abolished. Their replacements were chairmen, to be...

  17. 12 A United Department
    (pp. 445-472)

    When Gauthier’s term neared its end he made it known that he did not wish to be considered for a second term, and the selection committee settled on Thomas Robinson (who had served as graduate secretary under Gauthier) as his successor. Born in England, Robinson earned his first degree from the University of Durham and his B.Litt in Greek philosophy from Oxford. In 1964, a year before he submitted his thesis at Oxford, he accepted a position as assistant professor of philosophy and classics in the University of Calgary, where he taught until 1967, when he came to the Department...

  18. 13 Philosophy at Victoria College
    (pp. 475-510)

    In the years when Bishop Strachan was busy establishing King’s College, the Methodists were by far the largest Protestant denomination in Upper Canada. Much of the opposition to the Royal Charter of King’s College came from them, in particular from a young preacher named Egerton Ryerson, who had already tangled publicly with Strachan over the question of the Clergy Reserves, that is to say over the question of establishing the Church of England as the official church of Upper Canada. Strachan had a low opinion of Methodist preachers, representing them, in a printed sermon in 1825, ‘as American in origin...

  19. 14 Philosophy at Trinity College
    (pp. 511-530)

    The University of Trinity College was the second university founded by Bishop Strachan. Early in 1848 he had resigned as president of King’s College to devote himself full time to his episcopal duties. He believed that King’s College, then in its fifth year of operation, was well enough established to function without his personal direction. He also believed, mistakenly as it turned out, that the provincial government had abandoned its attempt to secularize the college. The passage of the Baldwin Act in 1849, which transformed King’s College into the University of Toronto, threw Strachan’s life into turmoil. Even before the...

  20. 15 Philosophy at St Michael’s College
    (pp. 531-580)

    In awing of St Michael’s Palace, his official residence in Toronto, the second Roman Catholic bishop of Toronto, Armand-François-Marie, Comte de Charbonnel, founded two schools in September 1852. The preparatory school, St Michael’s College, with an enrolment of eight, was staffed by two brothers of the Christian Schools; the other, St Mary’s Little Seminary, had a much larger faculty - five Basilian fathers, brought from France by the bishop - and twenty-one students, all aspirants to the priesthood. Two schools proved to be too great a financial drain on the diocese, and after only six months they were merged as...

  21. 16 Some Reflections on This History
    (pp. 581-584)

    One theme running throughout this history is the role certain churches played in the evolution of the present Department of Philosophy. At the time of the founding of King’s College, the precursor of the University of Toronto, the teaching of philosophy was everywhere closely tied to religion. The avowed aim was to eradicate in the young any tendency toward scepticism. The Christian view of the world was assumed to be true, and it was the duty of professors of philosophy to strengthen its hold on their students by marshalling arguments in support of it. ‘Evidences for Christianity’ and ‘Natural Religion’...

  22. Appendix A. Departmental Heads, Chairmen, and Chairs
    (pp. 585-586)
  23. Appendix B. Faculty in Philosophy, (1843–2005)
    (pp. 587-596)
  24. References
    (pp. 597-606)
  25. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 607-608)
  26. Index
    (pp. 609-623)