James Ward

Professor of Mental Philosophy and Logic, Cambridge

Naturalism and Agnosticism

Ward’s first lecture series, delivered at the University of Aberdeen, defends the basis of theistic inquiry against scientific assumptions that preclude its existence. Idealism, Ward argues, is the ‘one stable position’ which opens the door to theistic inquiry and, therefore, a rational theology.

The Realm of Ends or Pluralism and Theism

In the second series, delivered at the University of St Andrews, he aims ‘to ascertain what we can know, or reasonably believe, concerning the constitution of the world, interpreted throughout and strictly in terms of Mind’.


James Ward was born on 27 January 1843 in Hull, England. Considered ‘the Father of Modern British Psychology’, his most enduring contribution was his attack on the scientific naturalism of the late nineteenth century. In 1871, he became a minister at Emmanuel Congregational Chapel, resigning after a year to pursue an academic career. Ward attained an open scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, was elected to a fellowship in 1875, and began lecturing in 1878. In 1897, he was appointed as the first Professor of Mental Philosophy and Logic.

A founding Fellow of the British Academy, Ward received an honorary degree of LLD from the University of Edinburgh and Cambridge. His major publications include ‘Animal Locomotion’ in Nature (1874), ‘An Attempt to Interpret Fechner’s Law’ in Mind (1876), ‘The Physiology of the Nervous System of the Freshwater Crayfish’ in Journal of Physiology (1879), ‘Psychological Principles’ in Mind (1883), ‘Psychology’ in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1886), Naturalism and Agnosticism (1899), The Realm of Ends (1911), Heredity and Memory (1913), Psychological Principles (1918), and A Study in Kant (1923).

Published/Archival Resources