Richard Burdon Haldane

Member of Parliament

The Pathway to Reality

Haldane’s series of lectures is a metaphysical work, focusing on ultimate reality, the nature of God, and the finite mind. He attempts to define what is meant when we speak of God, freedom, and immortality, asserting that art and religion are as important as philosophy in the search for truth. While abstract thought has no monopoly on granting access to reality, Haldane believes it to ‘be the only competent guardian of the pathway’.


Richard Burdon Haldane was born on 30 July 1856 in Edinburgh, Scotland. A British lawyer and philosopher and influential Liberal and Labour politician, The Times described him as ‘one of the most powerful, subtle and encyclopaedic intellects ever devoted to the public service of his country’. Secretary of State for War between 1905 and 1912, he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Haldane in 1911 and was Lord Chancellor between 1912 and 1915. Forced to resign because of false allegations of German sympathies, he joined the Labour party and was, once again, Lord Chancellor in 1924.

A fellow of the British Academy, he was elected as Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh in 1905 and was Chancellor of the University of St Andrews shortly before his death in 1928. In addition to writing legislation, his philosophical works include Essays in Philosophical Criticism (1883), a translation of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea (1883), Reign of Relativity (1921), The Philosophy of Humanism (1922), and Selected Addresses and Essays (1928). He also wrote an autobiography in 1929.

Published/Archival Resources