Thomas Davidson was a Scottish-American philosopher and lecturer.
Davidson was born of Presbyterian parents at Old Deer, near Aberdeen. After graduating from Aberdeen University (1860) as first graduate and Greek prizeman, he held the position of rector of the grammar school of Old Aberdeen (1860–1863). From 1863 until 1866, he was master in several English schools, spending his vacations on the continent. In 1866 he moved to Canada, to occupy a place in the London Collegiate Institute. In the following year, he came to the United States, and, after spending some months in Boston, moved to St. Louis, where, in addition to work on the New York Round Table and the Western Educational Monthly, he was classical master in the St. Louis high school, and subsequently principal of one of the branch high schools.
In 1875, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. He traveled extensively, and became a proficient linguist, acquiring a knowledge of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latin, and Arabic.
In Greece, he devoted himself mainly to archaeology and modern Greek. He wrote Fragments of Parmenides (1869). In Italy, he studied the Catholic Church, scholastic philosophy, Dante, and Rosmini. For studying the Catholic Church, unusual opportunities were thrown open to him, chiefly through the Princess Carolyne of Sayn-Wittgenstein and Cardinal Hohenlohe, who offered him an apartment in his episcopal palace at Albano, and also in the Villa d'Este at Tivoli. His interest in Thomas Aquinas having come to the ears of the pope through Bishop (later Cardinal) Schiatlino, he was invited to the Vatican, where the pope suggested that he should settle in Rome and aid his professors in editing the new edition of St. Thomas. For more than a year he lived at Domodossola, in Piedmont, where the Institute of Charity, founded by Rosmini, has its novitiate. Here he produced the work that first brought Rosmini to the notice of English-speaking students: The Philosophical System of Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, translated, with a Sketch of the Author's Life, Bibliography, Introduction, and Notes (London, 1882). At the same time he wrote essays on classical subjects, mainly archaeological, published under the title The Parthenon Frieze and Other Essays (London, 1882). He also translated Rosmini's Psychology (3 vols., London, 1884). In 1883, he occupied a villa in Capri, and there translated Rosmini's Anthropology. Davidson was a frequent contributor to periodicals, and delivered courses of lectures, before the Lowell Institute in Boston and elsewhere, on modern Greece, on Greek sculpture, etc. He was mainly instrumental in founding "The Fellowship of the New Life," which had branches in London and New York.
Davidson's most successful work was in connection with the Educational Alliance in New York, where he attained wide popularity by a series of lectures on sociology. A special class was formed for Jewish young men and women, whom he introduced to the great writers on sociology and their problems. He aimed at founding among them what he called a "Breadwinners' College," but his work was cut short by his sudden death in Montreal, Quebec.
Books by Thomas Davidson
In my Volume on Aristotle in this series, I tried to give an account of ancient, classical, and social Education; in the present volume I have endeavored to set forth the nature of modern, romantic, and unsocial Education. This education originates w...