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Yu, H. C. D. Broad. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 11 December 2023).
Yu H. C. D. Broad. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 11, 2023.
Yu, Handwiki. "C. D. Broad" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 11, 2023).
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C. D. Broad
libertarianism philosophy determinism

1. Introduction

Charlie Dunbar Broad FBA (30 December 1887 – 11 March 1971), usually cited as C. D. Broad, was an English epistemologist, historian of philosophy, philosopher of science, moral philosopher, and writer on the philosophical aspects of psychical research. He was known for his thorough and dispassionate examinations of arguments in such works as Scientific Thought (1923), The Mind and Its Place in Nature (1925), and Examination of McTaggart's Philosophy (2 vols., 1933–1938).

Broad's essay on "Determinism, Indeterminism, and Libertarianism" in Ethics and the History of Philosophy (1952) introduced the philosophical terms occurrent causation and non-occurrent causation, which became the basis for the contemporary distinction between "agent-causal" and "event-causal" in debates on libertarian free will.

2. Biography

Broad was born in Harlesden, in Middlesex, England.[1]

He was educated at Dulwich College from 1900 until 1906. He gained a scholarship in 1906 to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1910 with First-Class Honours, with distinction.[2] He became a Fellow of Trinity College the following year.

2.1. Career

As his fellowship at Trinity College was a non-residential position, he was also able to accept a position as an assistant lecturer that he had applied for at St. Andrews University, where he remained until 1920. That year, he was appointed professor at Bristol University, working there until 1923, when he returned to Trinity as a lecturer. From 1926 until 1931, he was a lecturer in 'moral science' at Cambridge University's Faculty of Philosophy.

Later at Cambridge, he was appointed in 1931 as 'Sidgwick Lecturer', a role he would keep until 1933, when he was appointed Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University, a position he held for twenty years (until 1953).[3] In 1927 he gave the British Academy's Master-Mind Lecture, entitled Sir Isaac Newton.[4]

In addition, Broad was President of the Aristotelian Society from 1927 to 1928, and again from 1954 to 1955. He was also President of the Society for Psychical Research in 1935 and 1958.[3]

2.2. Personal Life

Broad was openly homosexual at a time when homosexual acts were illegal. In March 1958, Broad along with fellow philosophers A.J. Ayer and Bertrand Russell, writer J.B. Priestley and 27 others sent a letter to The Times which urged the acceptance of the Wolfenden Report's recommendation that homosexual acts should "no longer be a criminal offence."[5]

3. Theory

3.1. Psychical Research

Broad argued that if research could demonstrate that psychic events occur, this would challenge philosophical theories of "basic limiting principles" in at least five ways:[6]

  1. Backward causation (i.e., the future affecting the past) is rejected by many philosophers, but would be shown to occur if, for example, people could predict the future.
  2. One common argument against dualism (i.e., the belief that, while bodies are physical entities, minds are a different, non-physical sort of entity) is that physical and non-physical things cannot interact. However, this would be shown to be possible if people can move physical objects by thought (telekinesis).
  3. Similarly, philosophers tend to be skeptical about claims that non-physical 'stuff' could interact with anything. This would also be challenged if minds are shown to be able to communicate with each other, as would be the case if mind-reading is possible.
  4. Philosophers generally accept that we can only learn about the world through reason and perception. This belief would be challenged if people were able to psychically perceive events in other places.
  5. Physicalist philosophers believe that there cannot be persons without bodies. If ghosts were shown to exist, this view would be challenged.

3.2. Free Will

In his essay "Determinism, Indeterminism, and Libertarianism", Broad argued for non-occurrent causation as "literally determined by the agent or self." The agent could be considered as a substance or continuant, and not by a total cause which contains as factors events in and dispositions of the agent. Thus, our efforts would be completely determined, but their causes would not be prior events. New series of events would then originate, which he called "continuants," which are essentially causa sui.

Peter van Inwagen says that Broad formulated an excellent version of what van Inwagen has called the "Consequence Argument" in defence of incompatibilism.

4. Works

  • 1914. Perception, physics and reality. An Enquiry into the Information that Physical Science can Supply about the Real. London: Cambridge University Press. perceptionphysic00broarich at the Internet Archive.
  • 1923. Scientific thought. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co. (scientificthough00broauoft at the Internet Archive).
  • 1925. The Mind and Its Place in Nature. London: Kegan.
  • 1926. The Philosophy of Francis Bacon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1930. Five types of ethical theory. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co.
  • 1931. War Thoughts in Peace Time. London: Humphrey Milford.
  • 1933. Examination of McTaggart's philosophy. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press.
  • 1934. Determinism, interdeterminism and libertarianism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1938. Examination of McTaggart's philosophy. Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press.
  • 1952/2000. Ethics and the History of Philosophy. Routledge. ISBN:0-415-22530-2.
  • 1953/2000. Religion, Philosophy and Psychic Research. Routledge. ISBN:0-415-22558-2.
  • 1955. Human Personality and the Possibility of Its Survival. University of California Press.
  • 1958. Personal Identity and Survival. London: Society for Psychical Research.
  • 1962. Lectures on Psychical Research. Incorporating the Perrott Lectures given in Cambridge University in 1959 and 1960. New York: Humanities Press.
    • contains Saltmarsh's Investigation of Mrs Warren Elliott's Mediumship." Lectures on Psychical Research. Incorporating the Perrott Lectures given in Cambridge University in 1959 and 1960. New York: Humanities Press.
  • 1968. Induction, Probability, and Causation. Selected Papers of C. D. Broad, Dordrecht: Reidel.
  • 1971. Broad's Critical Essays in Moral Philosophy, New York: Humanities Press.
  • 1975. Leibniz: An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN:0-521-20691-X
  • 1976. Berkeley's Argument. Haskell House Pub Ltd.
  • 1978. Kant: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN:0-521-21755-5
  • 1985. Ethics. Dordrecht: Nijhoff.
Further Reading
In this part, we encourage you to list the link of papers wrote by the character, or published reviews/articles about his/her academic contributions. Edit


  1. Harlesden was part of Middlesex until 1965; today it is part of the London Borough of Brent in Greater London.
  2. Hodges, S. 1981. God's Gift: A Living History of Dulwich College. London: Heinemann. p. 87.
  3. "Charlie Dunbar Broad". 
  4. Broad, C. D. (1927). "Sir Isaac Newton". Proceedings of the British Academy 13: 173-202.  Annual Lecture on a Master Mind. Henriette Hertz Trust. Read July 15, 1927.
  5. Annan, N. G., Attlee, A. J. Ayer, Robert Boothby, C. M. Bowra, C. D. Broad, David Cecil, L. John Collins, Alex Comfort, A. E. Dyson, Robert Exon, Geoffrey Faber, Jacquetta Hawkes, Trevor Huddleston, C. R. Julian Huxley, C. Day-Lewis, W. R. Niblett, J. B. Priestley, Russell, Donald O. Soper, Stephen Spender, Mary Stocks, A. J. P. Taylor, E. M. W. Tillyard, Alec R. Vidler, Kenneth Walker, Leslie D. Weatherhead, C. V. Wedgwood, Angus Wilson, John Wisdom, and Barbara Wootton. 7 March 1958. "Letter to the Editor." The Times.
  6. Broad, C. D. (1949). "The Relevance of Psychical Research to Philosophy". Philosophy 24 (91): 291–309. doi:10.1017/S0031819100007452.
Name: C. D. Broad
Born: Dec 1887
Harlesden, Middlesex, England
Titles: English epistemologist Historian of philosophy Philosopher of science Moral philosopher
Affiliation: Trinity College, Cambridge
Honor: Unknown
Subjects: Philosophy
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Entry Collection: HandWiki
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Update Date: 15 Nov 2022