William & Mary

Philosopher receives NEH summer institute grant

  • Statue of Hume in Edinburgh
     Sandy Stoddard's Statue of David Hume, on Edinburgh's Royal Mile  
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Elizabeth Radcliffe, Professor of Philosophy at William & Mary, and co-director Angela Coventry, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University, have received a grant of $185,975 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Their project, called “Hume in the 21st Century: Perpetuating the Enlightenment,” will be a four-week Summer Institute where college and university faculty will pursue intensive study of multidisciplinary perspectives on eighteenth-century Scottish thinker David Hume. Hume was a prominent intellectual of the Enlightenment whose impact on contemporary thought is arguably even greater than luminaries such as Adam Smith and Thomas Reid, on the Scottish front, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, on the French side.

“From our perspective almost three centuries later, the breadth and genius of Hume’s writings and contributions make his ideas eminently worthy of continued exploration,” Radcliffe said. The 2020 Hume Summer Institute aims to address both traditional and non-traditional areas of Hume scholarship. “Its unique feature is its focus on the relevance of Hume’s thought to some contemporary interests: Non-Western philosophy, gender, race, the status of animals, and the environment.”

The Institute will be convened at Portland State University from July 13th through August 7th, 2020, for thirty participants. It will feature a rotating faculty of twelve prominent scholars from philosophy, history, history of economics, and religious studies. At least five slots will be reserved for pre-tenure and non-tenure-track faculty, and three for advanced graduate students.

The summer of 2020 marks an auspicious occasion, since it will be thirty years since the NEH last sponsored a Summer Institute focused primarily on Hume and his context. Radcliffe was a participant in that 1990 Institute, which gave her a boost early in her career. She sees the current Institute as an opportunity to do the same for a new generation of emerging scholars.

Participants will be selected through an application process that will be widely announced through humanities websites, e-mails, and social media. Radcliffe will be setting up a website for the Institute later this fall.