Stace, Walter Terence

Stace, Walter Terence (1886-1967), Stuart Professor of Philosophy for twenty years, grew up in an English military family (his great-grandfather, General William Stace, served in the Battle of Waterloo), and it was expected that, like his father and brother, he would follow a military career. In his teens, however, he experienced a religious conversion and entered Trinity College, Dublin, with a view to a career in the Anglican Church. At Trinity, he became interested in systematic philosophy, but on graduation, yielding to family pressure, he entered the British Civil Service. From 1910 to 1932, he served in various posts in the government of Ceylon; there is still a Stace Street in Colombo, where he was mayor for many years. At the same time, he continued to study philosophy; every morning he was awakened with early tea at six to read and write for two hours before breakfast. In this way he produced three books: A Critical History of Greek Philosophy, The Philosophy of Hegel, and The Meaning of Beauty.

He was called to Princeton in 1932 and appointed Stuart Professor of Philosophy in 1935. After coming to the University he published a book-length poem, many scholarly articles, and books of major importance in the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, ethics, social and political thought, and the philosophy of religion. One book won an American Council of Learned Societies award, another the Reynal and Hitchcock prize. His publications, according to the New York Times, established him as ``one of the preeminent philosophers of the English-speaking world.''

Stace was an empiricist in the British tradition. Professor James Ward Smith, a colleague and former student, has said that his basic position was that empiricism does not require the confinement of belief to propositions that are in any strict sense demonstrable.

``The boy who had experienced religious conversion [Professor Smith wrote] was never smothered by the mature clearly-reasoning empiricist. . . . `Either God is a mystery or He is nothing at all,' Stace wrote. `To ask for a proof of the existence of God is on a par with asking for a proof of the existence of beauty. If God does not lie at the end of any telescope, neither does he lie at the end of any syllogism. . . .'''


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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