Philosophy Pages

    Dictionary    Study Guide  Logic   F A Q s
  History Timeline Philosophers   Locke

Whately, Richard (1787-1863)

English logician and theologian. Considered largely responsible for the revival of the study of logic in England in the early part of the nineteenth century, Whately was the author of two standard texts—Elements of Rhetoric (1828) and Elements of Logic (1826). His logic was largely Aristotelian, but explicitly followed Locke in many respects. Whately was also the author of numerous books, essays, and pamphlets in politics, economics, and religion. He admired the work of William Paley and, in his most famous work, the Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte (1819), argued that, if one were to adopt Hume's criteria for judging the reliability of testimony, one could deny that Napoleon had ever existed. [Contributed by Will Sweet.]

Recommended Reading: Craig Parton, Richard Whately: A Man For All Seasons (Canadian, 1997) and Erkki Patokorpi, Rhetoric, Argumentative and Divine: Richard Whately and His Discursive Project of the 1820s (Peter Lang, 1996).

Also see EB.

Whewell, William (1794-1866)

British philosopher of science. In the Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded upon Their History (1840) and The Plurality of Worlds (1858) Whewell defended a hypothetico-deductive model of Baconian natural science, emphasizing the role of intellectual creativity in theory-formation and defending a strict scientific realism in opposition to the strictly empiricist views of Mill. Thus, he held that Newton mechanics for celestial and terrestrial motion provides necessary truths about the structure of the universe. Whewell considered the implications of this view for ethics in The Elements of Morality (1856).

Recommended Reading: Collected Works of William Whewell, ed. by Richard Yeo (Thoemmes, 2001); William Whewell, Mathematical Exposition of Some Doctrines of Political Economy (Augustus Kelley, 1971); William Whewell: Theory of Scientific Method, ed. by Robert E. Butts (Hackett, 1989); William Whewell: A Composite Portrait, ed. by Menachem Fisch and Simon Schaffer (Oxford, 1991); and Richard Yeo, Defining Science: William Whewell, Natural Knowledge, and Public Debate in Early Victorian Britain (Cambridge, 1993); Laura J. Snyder, The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World (Broadway, 2011) .

Also see SEP, Soshichi Uchii, and EB.

Whitehead, Alfred North (1861-1947)

English mathematician and philosopher who collaborated with Russell on Principia Mathematica (1910-13). After a long career in mathematics at Cambridge and London, Whitehead accepted a position in philosophy at Harvard in 1924. In Process and Reality (1929) he developed an abstract methodology through which to propose a comprehensive metaphysical view according to which events and processes, rather than independent substances constitute reality. This view points toward the progressive development of conscious organic beings mutually involved in prehensive relations to each other.

Recommended Reading: Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Free Press, 1997); A Key to Whitehead's 'Process and Reality', ed. by Donald W. Sherburne (Chicago, 1981); Nathaniel Lawrence, Alfred North Whitehead: A Primer of His Philosophy (Elliot's, 1974); Leemon B. McHenry, Whitehead and Bradley: A Comparative Analysis (SUNY, 1992); and Judith A. Jones, Intensity: An Essay in Whiteheadian Ontology (Vanderbilt, 1998).

Also see SEP on Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, and process philosophy, EB, MMT, and ELC.

Wiener Kreis

Group of Austrian analytical philosophers known (in English) as the Vienna Circle.


The faculty of deciding, choosing, or acting.

Recommended Reading: Gary Watson, Free Will (Oxford, 1983) and Robert Kane, The Significance of Free Will (Oxford, 1998).

Also see DPM, SEP, and CE.

Wilson, Edward Osborne (1929- )

American biologist; author of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) and On Human Nature (1978). Extrapolating from his zoological studies, Wilson promotes the discipline of "sociobiology," offering explanations of human social behavior in strictly biological terms. In Biophilia (1986) Wilson proposes that human appreciation of the natural world is an innate expression of a vital biological aspect of our evolutionary development.

Recommended Reading: Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life (Norton, 1999); Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Random House, 1999); Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life (Vintage, 2003); and Ullica Segerstrale, Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond (Oxford, 2000).

Also see EB.

Wilson, John Cook (1849-1915)
Cook Wilson

English logician and philosopher. Although he had studied with Green, Cook Wilson rejected idealism in favor of a realistic epistemology. His classroom teaching and posthumously-collected papers, Statement and Inference were influential on a generation of Oxford philosophers.

Also see SEP.


German term for reality.


German term for effect.

wisdom {Gk. σοφια [sophía]; Lat. sapientia}

Good judgment with respect to abstract truth or theoretical matters (in contrast to prudence in concrete, practical affairs). For Plato, wisdom is the virtue appropriate to the rational soul, and for Aristotle, it is the highest intellectual virtue.

Also see SEP.

Wisdom, John (1904-1993)

British philosopher whose Other Minds (1952) and Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (1953) applied the analytic methods of Moore and the later Wittgenstein to significant issues in the philosophy of mind.

Recommended Reading: John Wisdom, Paradox and Discovery (California, 1987); John Wisdom, Philosophy and Its Place in Our Culture (Gordon & Breach, 1975); and Philosophy and Life: Essays on John Wisdom, ed. by Ilham Dilman (Martinus Nijhoff, 1984).


German term for knowledge.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1889-1951)

Austrian philosopher whose brilliant, aphoristic, and controversial writings (in two distinct stages) provided the impetus for both logical positivism and linguistic analysis.

For a discussion of his life and works, see Wittgenstein.

Wolff, Christian (1679-1754)

German philosopher who wrote in both Latin and German, developing an extensive philosophical nomenclature for his native tongue and introducing a style that insisted upon thorough treatment of every issue. Wolff developed a philosophical system similar to that of Leibniz in his Philosophia Prima sive Ontologia (First Philosophy, or Ontology) (1721). Although his rationalistic metaphysical doctrines were condemned for their fatalistic implications in ethics, they remained influential until subjected to Kant's critique.

Also see SEP, EB, and ELC.

Wollstonecraft, Mary (1759-1797)

English political writer. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) Wollstonecraft argued that the natural development of human capacities has been significantly curtailed because of the domination of women by men.

For a discussion of her life and works, see Wollstonecraft.


Creative Commons License
The Philosophy Pages by Garth Kemerling are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

©1997, 2011 Garth Kemerling.
Last modified 31 December 2011.
Questions, comments, and suggestions may be sent to: the Contact Page.