Grote, John (DNB00)

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GROTE, JOHN (1813–1866), philosopher, younger brother of George Grote [q. v.], was born at Beckenham in Kent on 5 May 1813. Educated privately, first with a view to Haileybury and the Indian civil service, afterwards (on his father's death in 1830) to the university, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, 'in October 1831, and, taking a high place in classics at graduation in 1835, was elected fellow of his college in 1837. Till 1845 he continued to reside in college, at first with interludes of foreign travel. The wish of his devout mother [see Grote, George] may have helped to direct him to the clerical profession, but there is evidence that he had early an independent religious bias. Ordained deacon in 1842 and priest in 1844, he gave occasional help in their parishes to college friends, till, at the beginning of 1847, he was appointed to the perpetual curacy of Wareside, near Ware. In the summer of the same year he succeeded to the college living of Trumpington, close to Cambridge, where he lived ever afterwards. His parochial preaching aimed chiefly at edification, and was simple and direct in expression. The native bent towards reflective thought which, alone in a large family, he shared with his famous elder brother, declared itself from his undergraduate days. In philosophy he never was a very wide reader, as he was in general literature; but he showed great independence of view, especially on all matters pertaining to human conduct. His most potent philosophical stimulus came from Robert Leslie Ellis [q. v.], with whom he consorted much at Cambridge from about 1842; most closely in Ellis's last years (1852-1859) spent at Trumpington. The intellectual debt was warmly acknowledged in the introduction to his 'Exploratio Philosophica' (1865), and was repaid in a remarkable study of his friend's character left among his papers and printed in the 'Contemporary Review' (1872). He published a 'Commemoration Sermon' in 1849, and 'A Few Remarks on a Pamphlet by Mr. Shilleto, entitled "Thucydides or Grote?"' in 1851, forcibly repelling an unworthy attack upon his brother. Otherwise he had printed nothing except a classical article or two, though he had written much, when he was elected to succeed Whewell as Knightbridge professor of moral philosophy in 1855. Besides lecturing he now wrote copiously on philosophical subjects, but rather to clear his own mind than, for some time yet,with any definite view to publication. An essay on 'Old Studies and New' (in 'Cambridge Essays,' 1856) and a few pamphlets were his only productions until, in the spring of 1865, he hurried out his 'Exploratio Philosophica: Rough Notes on Modern Intellectual Science.' The book was announced as a first part, to be presently followed by a second, much of which was already written; but he died on 21 Aug. 1866, before anything more was ready, though he worked till the last. His health had always been uncertain, and there was another reason for the fragmentary and unfinished state in which he left the results of his thought: with a highly nervous temperament that made him swift rather than persistent in work, he had none of his brother's ingrained methodical habit. Much has been done to make up for the short-coming by his literary executor the Rev. J. B. Mayor, husband of his adopted niece. Besides a selection of his 'Sermons' (1872) and a number of detached essays, Mr. Mayor has carefully edited 'An Examination of the Utilitarian Philosophy' (1870) and 'A Treatise on Moral Ideals' (1876). The 'Examination' is an elaborate criticism of J.S. Mill's 'Utilitarianism,' written down for his own satisfaction on the appearance of Mill's essay in 'Fraser's Magazine' (1861), and partly prepared for publication on its separate appearance as a book in 1862. The 'Moral Ideals' (left by himself without title) is an uncontroversial exposition of the results of his own ethical thought, which he had resolved to publish first after partly printing the 'Examination' in 1863; till he turned aside to bring out the 'intellectual views' of the 'Exploratio,' originally to have been appended to the controversial 'Examination.' In all these works, as in his lectures, he resorted on principle to a free (but always scholarly) invention of new terms. That he had deeply meditated on the philosophy of language was proved by a remarkable series of papers 'On Glossology,' printed some years after his death in the 'Journal of Philology' (1872, 1874, conclusion unfortunately not given). He had no desire to impose his new words on others, being only anxious to convey his own ideas with perfect accuracy; yet some of his formations—'felicific,' 'hedonics,' 'relativism,' and others—have begun to find their way into current philosophical use. As a thinker he combined a singular openness of mind with steadfast adherence to carefully grounded convictions of his own. When he first appeared as a philosophical writer, he made a definite advance beyond his English predecessors of all schools in the clearness with which he apprehended the distinction between psychology and philosophy. This enabled him, while making due allowance for the part to be accorded to positive inquiry in ethical thought, to claim, with a novel emphasis, the character of philosophical doctrine for ethics. In private his moral sensitiveness and fervour, joined with dialectic subtlety, gave him great influence over the minds of others; he was especially consulted by friends in cases of conscience. He did not marry.

He had studied history so much in earlier years that he was urged by his eldest brother to apply for the chair of modern history at Cambridge in 1849, when it fell to Sir James Stephen. The width of his intellectual range is shown by his writings. Besides those already mentioned there appeared in his lifetime: 1. 'Dating of Ancient History' and 'Origin and Meaning of Roman Names' ('Journ. of Class. and Sac. Philology,' 1854-1855). 2. 'A Few Words on Criticism,' 1861 (an exposure of a 'Saturday Review' attack on Whewell's 'Platonic Dialogues'). 3. 'An Examination of some Portions of Dr. Lushington's Judgment' in cases arising out of 'Essays and Reviews,' 1862. 4. 'A Few Words on the New Education Code, 1862. Mr. Mayor has published since his death: 5. 'What is Materialism?' ('Macmillan's Mag.,' 1867). 6. 'On a Future State' and 'Montaigne and Pascal' ('Contemp. Review,' 1871, 1877). 7. 'Thought v. Learning' ('Good Words,' 1871). 8. 'Discussion on the Utilitarian Basis of Plato's Republic' ('Classical Review,' 1889). Other writings may still see the light.

[Biographical particulars in introductions or prefaces to the philosophical volumes; manuscript notes; information from relatives.]

G. C. R.