Peter Coffey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Peter Coffey
Born (1876-04-09)April 9, 1876
Rathrone, Ireland
Died January 7, 1943(1943-01-07) (aged 66)
Maynooth, Ireland
Education Maynooth College, University of Louvain
School Neoscholasticism
Institutions Maynooth College

Peter Coffey PhD(Louvain) (9 April 1876, Rathrone, Enfield, Ireland – 7 January 1943, Maynooth, Ireland)[1] was an Irish Roman Catholic priest and Neoscholastic philosopher. He studied for his doctorate at the University of Louvain.[2] He was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Maynooth College from 1902 until his death. In his time, Coffey was considered one of the foremost Catholic intellectuals in Ireland.[3] He authored a number of books, including manuals of Thomistic philosophy:

  • The Inductive Sciences, an Inquiry into some of their Methods and Postulates (Dublin, 1910)
  • The Science of Logic, 2 vols. (London, 1912)
  • Ontology: The Theory of Being (1912)
  • Epistemology, 2 vols. (London, 1917)

His manuals were widely used in the education of Roman Catholic priests and theologians in the English-speaking world,[4] up until roughly the 1960s, but have since been largely ignored.

The only book review that Ludwig Wittgenstein ever published, in 1913, was a scathing review of Coffey's The Science of Logic.[2][5][6] By contrast, in 1917, his Epistemology was favourably reviewed by T. S. Eliot.[7][8][9]

In his 1903 article The Hexahemeron and Science, Coffey sought to find a middle ground in conflict between natural sciences and the Catholic Church, seeing fault on both sides.[10]

Coffey advocated for a positive view of trade unionism.[11] Some of Coffey's ideas on labour issues, however, incurred the displeasure of his superiors at Maynooth.[12]


  1. ^ Stuart Brown; Diane Collinson; Robert Wilkinson (10 September 2012). Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers. Routledge. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-134-92796-8. 
  2. ^ a b Fergus Kerr (2008). Work on Oneself: Wittgenstein's Philosophical Psychology. CUA Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-9773103-1-9. 
  3. ^ G. R. S. Taylor (1 October 2005). The Guild State: Its Principles and Possibilities. IHS Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-60570-017-5. Fr. Peter Coffey, onetime Professor at Maynooth in Ireland, and one of the country's "most eminent Catholic intellectuals"... 
  4. ^ Rudolf Metz (3 June 2014) [1938]. A Hundred Years of British Philosophy. Routledge. p. 819. ISBN 978-1-317-85322-0. The most prolific neo-scholastic writer to-day is Peter Coffey, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in Maynooth College, Ireland (b. 1876). We owe to him a system of philosophy based on a Thomistic foundation, broadly planned and fully worked out, which is much used for instruction in Roman Catholic theological seminaries, but has hardly aroused any notice outside their walls... 
  5. ^ Vincent Descombes (11 March 2014). The Institutions of Meaning. Harvard University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-674-41997-1. 
  6. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1913-03-06). "Review: P. Coffey, The Science of Logic". The Cambridge Review. 34 (853): 351. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  7. ^ Barry Spurr (30 April 2010). Anglo-Catholic in Religion: T.S. Eliot and Christianity. Lutterworth Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7188-4024-2. By 1917, reviewing Peter Coffey's Thomistic work, Epistemology, Eliot was writing that the Catholic Church was 'the only Church which can even pretend to maintain a philosophy of its own'. 
  8. ^ Wilson, James Matthew (2010). "Style and substance: T. S. Eliot, Jacques Maritain, and Neo-Thomism". Religion & Literature. 42 (3): 43–73. JSTOR 23049387. 
  9. ^ Eliot, T. S. (1917-12-29). "A Contemporary Thomist". The New Statesman: 312–313. 
  10. ^ John Privilege (12 February 2014). Michael Logue and the Catholic Church in Ireland, 1879–1925. Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7190-9132-2. 
  11. ^ MacMahon, Joseph A. (1981). "The Catholic Clergy and the Social Question in Ireland, 1891-1916". Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review. 70 (280): 263–288. JSTOR 30090376. Father Peter Coffey of Maynooth dealt positively with the powerful influence of trade unionism in bettering the conditions of the workers and in promoting harmony and prosperity among all classes. 
  12. ^ Harris, Mary (1996-03-16). "Priestly powerhouse". The Tablet: 372–373. Retrieved 2016-06-18. Radical ideas were not welcomed. Peter Coffey, appointed to the chair of philosophy in 1902, was refused permission to publish The Financing of Industry and the Labour Question.