The Times/1938/Obituary/Harold Henry Joachim
Professer H. H. Joachim
Professor H. H. Joachim, who held the chair of Wykeham Professor of Logic in the University of Oxford with a Fellowship of New College from 191 to 1935 and was a writer whose works are well known to serious students of philosophy in many countries, died on Saturday at Upover, Croyde. He was an Honorary Fellow of Merton College, a Fellow of the British Academy and Hon. LL.D. of the University of St. Andrews.
Harold Henry Joachim was born on May 28, 1868. He belonged to a family with a marked tradition in music; his father was a brother of the great violinist, and his mother a daughter of the organist and composer Henry Smart. He himself, when he was a young man, played violin from time to time in his uncle's quartet in the absence of one of the regular members, and he might have been distinguished as a violinist if he had not been a philosopher. It was characteristic of the high and fastidious standards applied by him to all work which he regarded as serious that, although he practised the violin to the end of his life, he never after his early years played it in public or even to gathering of his friends. he married is cousin a daughter of the violinist; she shared to the full in the family tradition and they had one son and two daughters.
He was educated at Harrow School, where he was a day boy, and went afterwards to Balliol with a classical scholarship. He showed marked ability for philosophy from the first and after taking his Schools obtained a Prize Fellowship at Merton, which gave him the opportunity of research in the subject which was already absorbing him.
In 1892 he joined the University of St. Andrews as Assistant to the Professor and Lecturer in Moral Philosophy. It was not always easy at St. Andrews to hold the attention of the students, and some of his friends thought that the young, rather shy teacher, with his gentle manner and quiet, beautifully modulated voice, might have a troublesome task. But Joachim's mastery of his subject and his intense and transparent conviction of its importance compelled immediate attention and he became a successful lecturer. he returned from St. Andrew to take up a lectureship at Balliol in 1894 and in 1897 he was elected Fellow and Tutor of Merton. Merton, where F. H. Bradley was in residence, was an appropriate home for the young philosopher who owed much to his work and was himself to become the foremost representative in Oxford of the Hegelian tradition; but Joachim used to say that he discussed philosophical questions very little with Bradley—he was diffident and Bradley over-powering. Joachim remained at Merton until his appointment in 919 to the Wykeham Chair of Logic, which carried with a Fellowship at New College.
The number of his published works is small, but they are of outstanding quality. In 1901 he published his "Study of the Ethics of Spinoza," a book remarkable for its maturity and balanced judgement. Joachim's approach to philosophy was already firmly fixed. he was convinced that the first and foremost business of he philosopher was to speculate about he universe as a whole, and that it was this interest int he whole (as he said in a paper written later in his life) which "lay at the heart of all genuine philosophy, giving to it its distinctive inspiration and character." It was natural therefore that his first work on Spinoza and that his exposition should show the insight and understanding of a disciple. But the book was not merely expository. Patience, tenacity and independence invariably characterized Joachim's handling of any philosophical problem and his criticism of what he thought to be the main weaknesses of Spinoza's system was profound and unsparing.
His next work, "The Nature of Truth" (1906), was connected with certain aspects of his study of Spinoza. He found in Spinoza the doctrine that the internal character of a true idea—its "adequacy"—showed itself for the coherence of its content, and on his new work he expounded the doctrine of truth as "coherence" after criticizing rival doctrines. His criticism first of the "corresponding theory" and then of the school of thought associated principally with G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell is pertinacious and formidable. It is characteristic that it is directed, not against particular statements of other philosophers, but against what he conceived to be the spirit and presuppositions of a school of doctrine. Joachim indulged little in direct controversy, though on occasion he that he could so with considerable effect.
In 1908 Joachim published a translation with notes of Aristotle's treatise, "De Lineis Insecabilibus," and in 1922 a controversy (with revised text and a translation) of "de Generation et Corruptione." The latter in particularly (as the more elaborate work) shows perfectly Joachim's philosophical insight, accurate scholarship, and profound knowledge of ancient philosophy. The introduction is a packed and authoritative statement, which could hardly be surpassed of certain main Aristotelian doctrines. His unpublished lectures on the Ethics of Aristotle, his notes on the Posterior Analytics and other works which he read with all his classes all had the same authoritative character. In all his Aristotelian studies he discussed every point with his lifelong friend, J. A. Smith, the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy. In the latter part of his tenure of the Chair of Logic the two collaborated in classes for senior students in the more difficult treatises of Aristotle, taking the classes together.
When Joachim was appointed to the Chair of Logic in 1919 it was realized that his treatment of his subject would differ from that of his predecessor, Cook Wilson. Logic for him could not be distinguished from metaphysics, and his own views in metaphysics were fairly established. A philosopher whose ultimate convictions are still unstable has the advantage that the way is still open for unexpected views and for sudden and brilliant paradoxes. With Joachim this could not be; but it would be far from the truth to suppose that his work was the iteration in varied forms of doctrines in regard to which he had long been convinced. To those who contemplated his philosophical system from outside the subtle development and modification which it was continually undergoing were not easily apparent. But they represented nevertheless a steady progress in the working out of Joachim's philosophy.
Joachim was an impressive lecturer. His spare figure, his beautiful voice, his sensitive features and hands, seemed congruous with the texture of his though, and he conveyed forcibly the sense of a determination to follow out the implication if his subject-matter and to have nothing in his lectures loosely articulate or imperfectly expressed. He was essentially a thinker who pursued by himself the undeviating train of his own thought; he avoided so far as possible congresses and meetings of philosophers, and only attended under pressure of his own extreme conscientiousness. But at the same time he was extraordinarily accessible and generous to his colleagues and all students of philosophy, taking endless pains in criticism when it was solicited, and in the discussion of their difficulties. In University and college business (which he always readily undertook) he showed the same thoroughness and care.
He retired in 1935 and was made Emeritus Professor. He continued to live in Oxford and pursued his work in philosophy so far as failing eyesight, and, in the last year or two, failing health would permit.
Many generation of students in philosophy in Oxford will remember the hospitality of Joachim and his wife, and the charm of a household which, particularly when they had their three children at home, was marked by great simplicity, friendliness, and dignity, and seemed subtly to coney the suggestion of an earlier Oxford tradition.