Luce, Arthur Aston (1882–1977), clergyman and philosophy professor, was born 21 August 1882 in Gloucester, England, seventh son of the Rev. John James Luce, vicar of St Nicholas church, Gloucester. He was educated initially at Eastbourne College and graduated from TCD as an external student in the pass course (BA 1905), while working as a bank clerk in Bristol. In 1907–9 he served as chaplain to St Columba's school, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, before his appointment as treasurer of St Patrick's cathedral (1909). He received his BD from Trinity in 1908, the same year in which he was ordained. In 1911 he secured his MA, and the following year was elected a fellow (by examination) of Trinity in philosophy and classics, after which a candid colleague informed him that his appointment would mark the end of recruitment of fellows by examination – a reference to the fact that due to a shortage of suitable candidates the board of the college would soon be empowered to elect fellows without examination. Luce took a prominent part in the work of the officers’ training corps, formed by the board of Trinity in 1910; he, F. La Touche Godfrey, and Samuel George Stewart made up the three fellows of TCD who fought on the western front during the first world war. He served with the Royal Irish Rifles (1915–18), and was on leave from France during the 1916 rising in Dublin, where, in the course of a walk to Nelson's Pillar, he was one of the first to witness the occupation of the GPO. In 1917 he was awarded the MC.
In 1920 Luce graduated DD, and was to become one of those scholars who passed virtually their entire lives within the college community, as undergraduates, candidates for fellowships, fellows, and professors. His sixty-five-year fellowship (1912–77) became the longest in the history of the college. He was appointed professor of moral philosophy in 1928, a position he held till 1949; served as vice-provost (1946–51); and in 1953 was appointed Berkeley professor of metaphysics with life tenure for himself only. Intensely loyal to the Church of Ireland, he had a concurrent clerical career, serving as canon of St Patrick's cathedral (1930–36), chancellor (1936–53) and precentor (1953–77). Luce became a world-renowned authority on the philosopher George Berkeley (qv) and published Berkeley's philosophical commentaries (1944) and (with T. E. Jessop) The works of George Berkeley (9 vols, 1948–57) as well as the Life of George Berkeley (1949). His other publications included Monophysitism, past and present (1920), Bergson's doctrine of intuition (1922), Sense without matter (1954), Teach yourself logic (1958), and the Dialectic of immaterialism (1963). A talented cricket- and tennis-player, he found his main recreation in fishing; his Fishing and thinking (1959) was regarded highly by fellow anglers. Extraordinarily widely read, Luce was well versed in oriental languages, believing in learning and scholarship for its own sake, and he always had a concern for meticulous detail and exactness in expression. Considered a lively and provocative teacher and preacher, he was inclined to exaggeration, issuing warnings that if the Irish language were to be made a compulsory study for protestants in schools, within a century half the protestants of Ireland would turn catholic. He also tutored Samuel Beckett (qv), and at the end of Beckett's second college year wrote that his prospects were ‘quite dismal’.
Conservative regarding the modernisation of Trinity, in his position as vice-provost Luce had to bear the brunt of mounting agitation for constitutional reform concerning the election methods for choosing the provost and the status of senior fellows; along with the five pre-1920 fellows, he was rigidly opposed to any alteration of the status quo or an increase in junior-fellow representation on the board of the college. As well as being an MRIA (1933), he was honoured by QUB and Trinity with degrees of D.Litt. (1953). Tragedy marred his family life. He married (1918) Lillian Mary Thompson, with whom he had two sons and a daughter; his wife and daughter were accidentally drowned in the River Liffey at Celbridge, Co. Kildare, in May 1940. Arthur Luce died in a Dublin hospital on 28 June 1977, a few days after being assaulted near his Rathfarnham home by a man who had an antipathy towards clergymen. A sports hall in Trinity was named in joint honour of him and his son, John Victor Luce (b. 1920), professor of classics in Trinity and a fellow of the university (1948–89).