Timothy Sprigge

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Timothy Sprigge
Born 14 January 1932
Died 11 July 2007
Lewes, Sussex
Occupation Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh
Notable work The Vindication of Absolute Idealism (1984)

Timothy L.S. Sprigge (14 January 1932 – 11 July 2007) was a British idealist philosopher who spent the latter portion of his career at the University of Edinburgh, where he was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, and latterly an Emeritus Fellow.

Sprigge was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, and Bryanston in Dorset. He studied English at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (1952–1955), then switched to philosophy, completing his PhD under A.J. Ayer.[1]

Long concerned with the nature of experience and the relationship between mind and reality, Sprigge was the philosopher who first posed the question made famous by Thomas Nagel: "What is it like to be a bat?"[1] Throughout his career he argued that physicalism or materialism is not only false, but has contributed to a distortion of our moral sense. There is, he argued, something non-physical to what a human being is and to animals of a higher sort.

The author of The Vindication of Absolute Idealism (1984), Sprigge defended a panpsychist version of absolute idealism, according to which reality consists of bits of experience combined into a certain kind of coherent whole. His work presents several new arguments in favor of the plausibility of such an account. Though a skeptic of traditional theism, Sprigge considered himself a believer in an impersonal God. He would eventually become a Unitarian. In his last book, The God of Metaphysics (2006), he argued for the existence of a "God of Philosophers" worthy of worship.[2] A Festschrift for Sprigge appeared on the day he died, Consciousness, Reality and Value: Essays in Honour of T. L. S. Sprigge (Ontos Verlag).

He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1991 to 1992 and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The Timothy Sprigge Room at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh contains Sprigge's library. The Sprigge Archive is located at the Edinburgh University Library.


  • The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (1968)
  • Facts, Words and Beliefs. International Library of Philosophy and Scientific Method (1970)
  • Santayana: An examination of his philosophy (The Arguments of the philosophers) (1974)
  • The Vindication of Absolute Idealism (1984)
  • Theories of Existence (1985)
  • The Rational Foundation of Ethics (1988)
  • The significance of Spinoza's determinism (Mededelingen vanwege het Spinozahuis) (1989)
  • James and Bradley: American Truth and British Reality (1994)
  • The God of Metaphysics (2006)
  • The Phenomenology of Thought ed by. L. McHenry (unfinished) (2009)
  • The Importance of Subjectivity: Selected Essays in Metaphysics and Ethics ed by. L. McHenry (2011)

External links

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jane O'Grady, "Timothy Sprigge", The Guardian, 4 September 2007.
  2. Leemon McHenry, "Timothy L. S. Sprigge – The Last Idealist?", The Philosopher, LXXXXVII(2), 2009 ; also in Michel Weber et Pierfrancesco Basile (sous la direction de), Chromatikon III. Annuaire de la philosophie en procès — Yearbook of Philosophy in Process, Louvain-la-Neuve, Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2007.