Richard Bevan Braithwaite
(15 January 1900–21 April 1990) was an English philosopher who specialized in the philosophy of science, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. He was a lecturer in moral science at the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...
from 1934 to 1953, then Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy
The Knightbridge Professorship of Philosophy is the senior professorship in philosophy at the University of Cambridge.One of the oldest professorships in Cambridge, the chair was founded in 1683 by John Knightbridge, fellow of Peterhouse....
there from 1953 to 1967. He was president of the Aristotelian Society
The Aristotelian Society for the Systematic Study of Philosophy was founded at a meeting on 19 April 1880, at 17 Bloomsbury Square which resolved "to constitute a society of about twenty and to include ladies; the society to meet fortnightly, on Mondays at 8 o'clock, at the rooms of the Spelling...
from 1946 to 1947, and was elected a fellow of the British Academy
The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national body for the humanities and the social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.It receives an annual...
Braithwaite was born in Banbury
Banbury is a market town and civil parish on the River Cherwell in the Cherwell District of Oxfordshire. It is northwest of London, southeast of Birmingham, south of Coventry and north northwest of the county town of Oxford...
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....
, and studied physics and mathematics at Cambridge.
He was married (secondly) to the computational linguist and philosopher Margaret Masterman
Margaret Masterman was a British linguist and philosopher, most known for her pioneering work in the field of computational linguistics and especially machine translation.- Biography :...
with whom he founded the Epiphany Philosophers a group of (largely) Anglicans and Quakers seeking a new view of the relationship between philosophy and science (see the Pardshaw Dialogues, below).
Although he was positivistically inclined, Braithwaite was a Christian, having been brought up a Quaker and becoming an Anglican later. According to theologian Alister E. McGrath Braithwaite's 1955 Eddington Memorial Lecture "An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief" is to date the most widely cited publication (e.g. by Anglican priest Don Cupitt
Don Cupitt is an English philosopher of religion and scholar of Christian theology. He is an Anglican priest, heretic and an emeritus professor of the University of Cambridge, though is better known as a popular writer, broadcaster and commentator...
) from a genre of 1970's-1980's theological works arguing that "God" and "religion" are human constructs—having no independent reality of their own—and that human dignity and freedom may best be advanced by systematic deconstruction
Deconstruction is a term introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology. Although he carefully avoided defining the term directly, he sought to apply Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion or Abbau, to textual reading...
of these two ideas, although Braithwaite himself had little sympathy for vague claims like these.
His major work was his book "Scientific Explanation" (1953) but, like his Eddington Lecture (above) it was his inaugural lecture (Theory of Games as a Tool for the Moral Philosopher
) that was his more original contribution: although a logician and philosopher of science, he had been elected to a chair of moral philosophy (ethics) about which he considered he knew little. His inaugural lecture attempted to bring what he did know about (the Theory of Games) into some relation with ethical reasoning and, in doing that, he effectively started a whole new field of study, namely, how game-theoretic considerations are related to ethical ones.
It was Braithwaite's poker that Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...
reportedly brandished at Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...
during their confrontation at a Moral Sciences Club
The Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club, founded in October 1878, is a philosophy discussion group that meets weekly at Cambridge during term time. Speakers are invited to give a 30-minute paper, after which discussion is thrown open for several hours....
meeting in Braithwaite's rooms in King's
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....
. The implement subsequently disappeared.
Braithwaite died in Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...
at the age of ninety.
- Scientific Explanation (1953)
- Theory of Games as a Tool for the Moral Philosopher (1955)
- An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief (1955)
- M. Hesse, ‘Richard Bevan Braithwaite, 1900–1990’, PBA, 82 (1993), 367–80.
- D. H. Mellor, ‘Braithwaite, Richard Bevan (1900–1990)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- R.B. Braithwaite, details from the British Academy Fellows Archive
- Science, Belief and Behaviour: Essays in Honour of R. B. Braithwaite, ed. D. H. Mellor (contents page and photograph of Braithwaite)
- "The Pardshaw Dialogues:sense awareness and passage of nature", ed. D. Emmet