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An English writer and convert, eldest son of William Ward, Esq., born in London, 21 March, 1812; died 6 July, 1882. He was educated at Winchester College and at Christ Church, Oxford, matriculated at the university in 1830. Though he confessed to a lack of appreciation of the finer branches of letters and poetry, he took a second class in them as well as in mathematics in 1834. He was a musician of no small attainments, a distinguished mathematician, and a profound philosopher. Indeed, though there is no lack of a straightforward and rugged elegance in his writings, especially in those of later date, his metaphysical bias may be always recognized. In 1833 he was elected to a scholarship at Lincoln College and, in the following year, was admitted to the degree of B.A. and became a fellow of Balliol College, subsequently taking orders. As mathematical tutor at the latter college he found himself in a position in which his strong intellectual influence soon became a power in the university. His keen perception and logical faculty, trained to no small extent by debates in the Oxford Union, gave weight to his opinions, while his growing power in the metaphysical sciences was fitting him for the unique part which he had to play later. The Tractarian Movement began in 1833. At this time Ward was a follower of Dr. Arnold, a latitudinarian in his principles, and thoroughly out of touch with the views of the newer school. But, in 1838, he definitively changed his position, and, from standing aloof with suspicion and almost with contempt, he became a fervent supporter of the movement.
He joined the party then led by Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Newman; and, when the famous Tract XC appeared in 1844, he joined issue with the army of critics who attacked it, by writing two pamphlets in defense of the principles it advocated. What he did he did thoroughly; and, having taken his place among the Tractarians, he lost no occasion of employing his skill as a dialectician. Not only among men of his own standing, but even in his mathematical classes, which not seldom ended in religious discussions, was the force of his trenchant logic felt. So much so that the authorities took fright, and after the appearance of the famous tract he was deprived of his tutorship. Thenceforward, his attitude was one in which ultimate submission to Rome seemed to be inevitable. When Newman retired to Littlemore, Ward became the most prominent figure among the Tractarians. In his contributions to the British Critic (1841-3) he advocated a policy of gradual assimilation of Catholic doctrine by which the way should be paved for corporate reunion. In 1844 he published his work entitled "The Ideal of a Christian Church considered in comparison with existing practice", in which he further elaborated his views. From this work he acquired the sobriquet of "Ideal" Ward. Shortly after the appearance of this book, on 13 Feb., 1845, he was deprived of his university degrees; and seeing the hopelessness and illogical nature of his position and the impossibility of realizing his ideal in the Establishment, he made submission to the Catholic Church in September, 1845, the month before that in which Newman was received. Ward retired to Old Hall, near Ware (1846); and after holding the chair of moral philosophy there for a year was professor of dogmatic theology in St. Edmund's College between the years 1852-8. In the latter year he published "On Nature and Grace a Theological Treatise", containing the substance of his theological lectures.
As a contributor to, and later on as editor of, the "Dublin Review", of which he was offered the editorial chair by Cardinal Wiseman in 1863, he was a strenuous defender of papal authority, against Döllinger principally (1860-70), and a subtle critic of the tents of the "Experience School" as exemplified in the teaching of John Stuart Mill and Alexander Bain. After the death of Cardinal Wiseman, Dr. Ward, keenly alive to the circumstances and needs of the restored hierarchy, strongly advocated the appointment of Dr. Manning. He was a prominent member and, indeed, a co-founder with Mr. James Knowles, of the Metaphysical Society (1869); of which, in the following year, he became the president. This society embraced representatives of almost every possible shade of thought and intellectual bias. The names of such members as Huxley, Tyndall, Martineau, Leslie Stephen, Frederic Harrison, Ruskin, John Morley, and Cardinal Manning are a sufficient indication of its heterogeneous nature. In 1878, his health compelled him to resign the important post which he held as editor of the historic "Dublin Review," using his great gifts in defense of the Church and the philosophical bases of the Faith. His contributions to the philosophy of Theism are valuable and solid. In his attitude he may be described as a thorough representative of the demonstrative school: but he lays the greatest stress upon the distinction between explicit and implicit reason. He follows Newman, and especially Kleutgen, in tracing the genesis of certitude: but he is clear in his teaching that all implicit reasoning is capable of being formally and explicitly expressed, that the whole of theistic teaching can be so presented as to claim the assent of all reasoning men.
WARD, William George Ward and the Oxford Movement (London, 1889); IDEM, William George Ward and the Catholic Revival (London, 1893); CHURCH, The Oxford Movement (London, 1891); HARRY, in Dublin Review (July, 1912).
APA citation. (1912). William George Ward. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15552c.htm
MLA citation. "William George Ward." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15552c.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to those who defend the Catholic Faith.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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