The Chairs of Logic and Metaphysics and of Moral Philosophy

During the early centuries of its existence, the teachers at St Andrews taught various courses as the demand arose, and often took a single group of students through all their subjects during their four-year course. As early as 1554, however, the three Regents (i.e. teaching masters) of St Mary's College were called Professors of Philosophy. In 1747 distinct Chairs (Professorships) in different disciplines were founded, and two of them were the Chair of Logic, Rhetoric and Metaphysics and the Chair of Ethics and Pneumatics (i.e. philosophy of mind). (A Chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy was also founded, which is the title still held by the Professor of Physics.)

Some Occupants of the Chair of Moral Philosophy (1747-1983)


Thomas Chalmers, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1823-8

Thomas Chalmers was a social reformer who played a large part in matters of the Church in Scotland (in particular in the Disruption of 1843) in the early nineteenth century. He was born in Anstruther (a fishing village on the coast of Fife) in 1780 and entered the University of St Andrews at the age of 12, became a minister of religion in 1799 and was remembered as a great preacher. He was elected to the Chair of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews in 1823 but left it for the Chair of Theology in Edinburgh in 1828. His lectures at St Andrews are partly reproduced in his Essays in Moral Philosophy.

Thomas Chalmers
Thomas Chalmers' Cup
(courtesy of the Special Collections
Department, St. Andrews University)

Opposite is the Thomas Chalmers cup, which is owned by the University of St. Andrews.

It was made in Glasgow in the date year 1931-32, by an unidentified maker (F+B). It is in silver.

The inscription reads: 

"Presented to St Salvator's Hall by Bailie William Watson Carstairs J.P.,Magistrate of Anstruther, in commemoration of service to Scotland rendered by Thomas Chalmers D.D., L.L.D., A native of Anstruther, a student in the University of St Andrews and Professor of Moral Philosophy in the United College from 1823 to 1828."

James Frederick Ferrier, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1845-64

James Ferrier was born in Edinburgh in 1808. He studied at the University of Edinburgh from 1825-27 and at the University of Oxford from 1827-31. He was strongly influenced by Sir William Hamilton. He was elected to the Chair of Moral Philosophy in 1845 and held it until his death in 1864. He was an absolute idealist, a follower of Bishop Berkeley, and invented the term "epistemology" (theory of knowledge) in his translation of Fichte. by John Haldane.

For further information, see The Philosophical Works of James Frederick Ferrier by John Haldane.

Portrait of Ferrier by Sir James Watson Gordon, circa 1863. It was commissioned by public subscription and presented to Ferrier in 1863.  It currently hangs in Lower College Hall in the University.


William Angus Knight, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1876-1903

William Knight was the prime mover in the foundation of the Scots Philosophical Club in 1900. Originally, membership was restricted to holders of Chairs of Philosophy in the Scottish universities, but was later extended to include all members of staff in those departments, and further associate members.

The portrait opposite was commissioned by the University and presented to Professor Knight in 1899 by LLAs (Ladies Literate in Arts - graduates of the University's LLA course). Knight was extremely influential in the field of women's education and had been the prime author of the University's LLA scheme, which entitled women to enter for examinations, and looked forward to the eventual admission of women to full membership of the University. Knight presented the portrait to the University in 1900.

Portrait of Knight by E. Hean Alexander, 1899. 
It hangs in University Hall.


Bernard Bosanquet, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1903-8

Bosanquet (1848-1923) was not only a philosopher but also a political theorist and social reformer. He was one of the principal exponents (with F.H. Bradley) of late nineteenth and early twentieth century 'Absolute Idealism'. He held the Chair of Moral Philosophy in St. Andrews from 1903-8.

Bernard Bosanquet


A.E. Taylor, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1908-24

Taylor was a classical scholar and occupied the Chair of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews from 1908-24.

Photography of A.E. Taylor in 1909-10,
(courtesy of St. Andrew's University Library).


David Morrison, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1924-36

David Morrison was born in Dundee and originally intended a legal career, but he was so taken with philosophical study that, having spent part of his youth in France, he studied at the Sorbonne, then in Jena, where he studied educational theory under Eucken, and in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, before returning to study in St Andrews. He won the Berry Scholarship and lectured on Schopenhauer, Herbart and Lotze, before returning to study psychology, ancient philosophy and moral philosophy in Berlin and Strasburg. In 1905 he became G.F. Stout's assistant in editing the philosophical journal Mind. In 1910-11 he took on the demanding role of Organising Secretary for the 500th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the University of St Andrews. During the First World War he worked in Naval Intelligence and then in the Foreign Office, writing and editing the Handbook on the Sudan. He was appointed Lecturer in Philosophy at University College Dundee (later Dundee University) in 1919, and in 1924 he succeeded Taylor in the Chair of Moral Philosophy. He was responsible for the organisation of a scheme of adult education lectures in Central Scotland. He died in post in April 1936 at the age of 68. In his obituary, it was said of him: "Few men had the power of demolishing, by a phrase or a sentence, views which were unpalatable, and to the "clever" young man he was merciless. The serious Scottish tradition of philosophic training can ill afford to lose men of his type"; and in a memorial tribute: "His life was governed by zeal for learning [and] by an unaffected interest in the welfare of students."

Opposite is a placque in rememberance of Morrison which is in the Western Cemetery (on the east wall) on the western outskirts of St. Andrews.

Portrait of David Morrison by Robert Home, first half of the 20th
century. It was presented to the University by Mrs Wilfred Taylor in
1988. It  currently hangs in Edgecliffe, the building that houses the
Department of Logic and Metaphysics and the Department
of Moral Philosophy.


Sir Malcolm Knox, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1936-53

Sir Malcolm Knox, translator of Hegel, held the Chair of Moral Philosophy from 1936 until 1953. He was at that time Vice-Principal, and on the Principal's death in office, Knox became Principal of the University of St Andrews, until its bifurcation into the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee in 1966, after which he is reported to have said that he could not preside over half a university.

Portrait of Sir Malcom Knox by H. Andrew Freeth, 1966,
from the University's collection.
It hangs outside the upper Library in St. Mary's.



A.D. Woozley, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1954-67

A.D. Woozley succeeded Knox as Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1954. He had been a Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. He left St Andrews in 1967, and taught at the University of Virginia until retiring in 1983. He was the author of Theory of Knowledge (1949) and of Law and Obedience (1979), and, with R.C. Cross, of Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary (1964). He also published an edition of Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1941) and of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1964). He was the Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly from 1957 to 1962. Among his contributions to philosophy at St Andrews was his arranging for the two philosophy departments, which hitherto had had no close association, to move to Edgecliffe, where for the first time they had a building to themselves and a common library. Before coming to St Andrews, he had, with Tony Honoré, inaugurated the teaching of law and philosophy at Oxford.(See ‘Our 1951 Reading List’ at Legal Philosophy in Oxford.)

Tony Woozley, photographed by Mary Bernard



Bernard Mayo, Chair of Moral Philosophy 1967-83



Photograph of Bernard Mayo
taken in 1984 (courtesy of St.
Andrews University Library).
Bernard Mayo came to St Andrews in 1968 from Birmingham, where he had been editor of Analysisfrom 1956 until 1965. In 1973 he took over as Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly, which had been founded in 1950 at St Andrews by Malcolm Knox, and edited it until 1980. He retired in 1983, and died in February 2000.

He published The Logic of Personality in 1952, Ethics and the Moral Life in 1958, and The Philosophy of Right and Wrong in 1986. Perhaps his most famous article is 'The Open Future', Mind 71, 1962, 1-14.




Compiled by Fiona Macpherson and Stephen Read, 2002
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