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William Cyples

(1831—1882) philosopher and poet


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William Cyples was born at Longton in Staffordshire on 31 August 1831 and died of heart disease in Hammersmith on 24 August 1882. He was self-educated and for many years worked as a journalist, producing also poetry and some anonymous novels. Long interested in philosophy and encouraged in his ambitions by J.S. Mill and G.H. Lewes, in 1877 he moved to London, where he became well known in intellectual circles. His only philosophical production, the result of a lifetime's thought, was his Inquiry into the Process of Human Experience, published in 1880. This massive work of some 800 pages attempts to provide a complete philosophy of human experience as, beginning with the basic elements, which it identifies as motion and consciousness, it ascends through such intermediate stages as pleasure, pain, memory, attention and intellect to the higher phenomena of consciousness, emotion and will, before finally reaching the highest and most abstract questions of all; those of metaphysics, faith, the problem of evil and the nature of art. The work's strength is its thorough familiarity with such writers as Alexander Bain, G.H. Lewes and Herbert Spencer and with contemporary psychology in general, it being Cyples's firm conviction that ‘no one can any more be encouraged to dream of philosophising without knowing all that science can teach them’ (Inquiry, p. 763), but its ideas are expressed in a very unclear fashion, a problem which it compounds by the creation of much obscure and ill-defined technical jargon. As a result the work gained poor reviews – to which Cyples made spirited reply – and no further recognition or influence.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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