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Henry Habberley Price

Wykeham Professor of Logic, Oxford
1899 to 1984

Henry Habberly Price was born on 17 May 1899 in Glamorgan Wales to Henry Price, a mechanical engineer, and Katherine Lombard. He was schooled in Winchester and, between 1917 and 1919, he was a member of the Royal Flying Corps. He then enrolled at New College Oxford where he attained a first in 1921.

Price proceeded swiftly into a career as a professional philosopher. He gained a fellowship at Magdalen College Oxford in 1922 followed by an assistant lectureship at Liverpool University. He appeared at many British universities including Trinity College Cambridge where he opened himself to the influence of Moore and Broad. His major appointments remained at Oxford where in 1924 he became a fellow of Trinity College before becoming Wykeham Professor of Logic and Fellow of New College from 1935 until his retirement in 1959. He was active beyond this and took up the position of Visiting Professor at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1962.

Price’s primary interests were in epistemology and the philosophy of mind. In his first major publication Perception (1932) he attempted to develop a theory of perception that rejected phenomenalist approaches in favour of a phenomenological method in articulating the relation between the notion of sense-data and physical objects. He further developed his theories through his 1940 publication Hume’s Theory of the External World in which he bridged the gap between Hume and Kant. In this work he used Hume’s notion of the imagination as that which binds reason and the senses in the same manner in which Kant used the transcendental ego.

Price’s research on the philosophy of thinking and conceptual thought itself links his early work to his later interest in religion and the paranormal. In works such as Thinking and Experience (1953) and his Gifford Lectures published as Belief (1969), he rejected symbolic and ideal theories of thought and argued for a dispositional theory by which conceptual thought is understood as a recognitional capacity. Price thought his arguments yielded conclusions regarding the possibility for meaningful propositions about the transcendent and the paranormal. He believed that through certain practices people can become more apt at interpreting the spiritual and the extrasensory.

Price served as the president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1939 and contributed greatly to its journal and Proceedings. He died on 26 November 1984 in Oxford.

His works also include Some Aspects of the Conflict Between Science and Religion (1953) and Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (1972). Philosophical Interactions with Parapsychology was published posthumously in 1995.

  • Sam Addison
  • University of Aberdeen