On Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fred Rogers Center, Margaret Watkins, interim dean of arts, humanities and social sciences, held a presentation for her research and subsequent writings on the work of philosopher David Hume, famed 18th century philosopher. The presentation was also used to promote her upcoming book, The Philosophical Progress of Hume’s Essays.
Regarding her initial decision to write her book on Hume, Watkins stated that it was a very long process.
“I got interested in the essays many, many years ago,” Watkins said, “and they were, I thought, not being paid the attention they should be paid by philosophers.”
Watkins also participated in research abroad several years ago, specifically the National Archives and the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, the origin of David Hume.
“I did a lot of research on the editions of the essays and meetings of the public philosophy society that Hume was a member of, and then I started writing,” Watkins stated.
Watkins mentioned that she believes philosophy to be an inexpensive subject to research.
“It only really requires a computer and a book,” Watkins said.
However, Watkins was verbally thankful for the support Saint Vincent College provided her in the composition process, explaining that the school supported her through faculty research grants, which she got for several years for work on the books, as well as contributing to her trips to Scotland.
“The fellowship was also an independent source of support,” Watkins said. “Also, they’ve allowed me to go to the Hume Society every year, and I’ve presented parts of the book at those meetings […] that’s been a really good opportunity to meet people, and get some feedback.”
Watkins believes that David Hume’s teachings should be more common and public in academic discussion, stating that if philosophy is being studied, Hume is unquestionably extremely important, probably the most important Enlightenment philosopher writing in English.
“Politically, right now, I think Hume has a message,” Watkins said. “[In] The Essays, in particular, he’s extremely concerned with factionalism […] public division, with the way people let their animosity and their attachment to a particular party make them irrational in their behavior, and immoral in their behavior to others.”
Julia Planchon, sophomore biochemistry major and one of the students present at the event, said that she found it “refreshing to hear from a liberal, female professor” on a topic she could be engaged in.
“Dr. Leiner asked a question about factionalism, and Dr. Watkins responded aptly that we are in a world that divided us instead of uniting us,” Planchon said.
Christian Crowley, senior English major, stated that he is certainly interested in learning more about Hume.
“While I am not positive [that] I'll be studying him, [...] I am taking a class with Dr. Leiner [next semester] on Kant and his successors, so, hopefully, I'll encounter some Hume there,” Crowley said. “I would also be interested in reading Dr. Watkins' book eventually.”
Margaret Watkins’ book, The Philosophical Progress of Hume’s Essays, will be available on Amazon on April 30, 2019.