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Herbert Arthur Hodges

Professor of Philosophy, University of Reading
1905 to 1976

Herbert Arthur Hodges was born on 4 January 1905 in Sheffield to a travelling businessman and a primary school teacher. He was raised in Yorkshire and attended the King Edward VII School in Sheffield. He went on to study Classics at Balliol College Oxford attaining a first in honour moderations in 1924 and then the same in literae humaniores in 1926.

Hodges’s first appointment was a brief one as a lecturer in philosophy at New College Oxford, followed by a similar post at Reading in 1928. He was awarded a doctorate from Oxford in 1934 and became Professor of Philosophy at Reading just two years later. Though he would have been welcomed, he did not return to Oxford and remained in the Reading chair until 1969. Hodges remained primarily committed to teaching giving lectures widely admired for their thoroughness and clarity. Throughout these years he also worked extensively for and within the Church of England representing it at the World Council of Churches Conferences in Amsterdam and Montreal. During the Second World War he also served in the Home Guard.

Owing perhaps to his Oxford tutor A.D. Lindsay one of Hodges’s major philosophical interests was German sociologist philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey. It was for work on him that Hodges received his doctorate and he went on to publish Wilhelm Dilthey: An Introduction in 1944 and The Philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey in 1952. He also wrote an entry on Dilthey for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It was perhaps Dilthey’s concern with differing perspectives and worldviews in relation to religious faith which inspired much of what Hodges expressed in his Riddell Lectures entitled ‘Languages Standpoints and Attitudes’ given at the University of Durham in 1953.

Hodges was not primarily a historian of philosophy. He actively engaged with important ideas in political and religious philosophy. His background had given him an understanding of hardship and he was often involved in the Worker’s Educational Association and a number of socialist organisations. He was also appointed to a number of Royal Commissions. He participated in a three-hour public debate on the reasonableness of religious belief broadcast on the BBC. He was no dogmatist however having struggled against a scepticism that had diminished his religious belief for a short period in early manhood. The relation between his philosophy and his religious convictions did not remain one of struggle and he satisfied himself that the philosopher and churchman are worthy collaborators.

Hodges married in 1939. His bride was a former pupil Vera Joan Willis and together they had three children. Hodges died in his beloved town of Reading on 2 July 1976. His wife survived him.

His works include: Wilhelm Dilthey: An Introduction (1944); Christianity and the Modern World View (1949); The Philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey (1952); Languages Standpoints and Attitudes (1953); Anglicanism and Orthodoxy (1955); Patterns of Atonement (1955); Death and Life Have Contended (1964); A Rapture of Praise (1966); and A Homage to Ann Griffiths (1976).

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