William Hamilton

William Hamilton . Idealistic philosopher and English logician. Conceiving knowledge as an “investigation of the conditions” of the object’s existence, it denied objective truth and adopted an agnostic position; “the absolute”, that is, material reality, according to Hamilton, is only knowable through divine revelation. Following Kant , he admitted apriorism as well as moral postulates as the basis for religious faith. He introduced into logic the theory related to the quantitative determination (quantification) of the predicate, thus trying to reduce the judgment to the equation , and logic to the calculation; he was one of the predecessors of contemporary mathematical logic. His fundamental work is “Dissertations on metaphysics and logic” (4 t., 1859-60). [1]


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  • 1 Biographical synthesis
    • 1 Trajectory
  • 2 Contributions
  • 3 References
  • 4 Sources

Biographical synthesis

Born in Glasgow in 1788 .


From 1836 he was professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh . With him the Scottish School is revived and exhausted, whose main representative was Reid . It adopts some basic theories of this school, such as the immediate perception of objects, but it integrates elements from other schools. He only published one volume in his lifetime: Discussions on Philosophy and Literature, Education and University Reform ( 1852 ), in which he collects several previously published articles. After his death the work was published Lectures on Logic and Metaphysic ( 1859 -60).


Hamilton’s main contribution to logic is the doctrine of predicate quantification: given the need to make explicit what is implicitly thought, Hamilton asserts that the quantity of the predicate must be made explicit as well as the quantity of the subject.

In psychology , he divides mental phenomena into three classes: knowledge , feeling (pleasure and pain ), and desire.

Finally, in theory of knowledge it reflects the influence of Kant: the knowledge is immediately “presentative”, not representative. In this presentation, the duality between self and non-self is immediately recognized (hence he sometimes calls his philosophy “natural dualism”). It reduces the immediacy of knowledge to sensible perception, but this sensible perception is guided by a “principle of relativity”, according to which “existence is not knowable absolutely and in itself, but in its phenomenal manifestations, that is, insofar as it modifies the senses, and that knowledge is conditioned by the laws of thought. ” According to that, thinking is conditioning. Now, since the absolute and infinite is not conditionable, it escapes knowledge and can only be conceived as a negation of all thinkability.

Hamilton’s philosophy dominated unopposed for some time in Scottish universities, until it was displaced by positivist and neo-idealist currents.

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