Dr Ruth Boeker: "Catharine Trotter Cockburn and Ann Hepburn Arbuthnot as Scottish Philosophers"

Event date: 
Wednesday 6 July
Dr Ruth Boeker

An IASH Work-in-Progress seminar, delivered by Dr Ruth Boeker (American Philosophical Association Fellow 2022, University College Dublin)

Catharine Trotter Cockburn and Ann Hepburn Arbuthnot as Scottish Philosophers

My talk will focus on Catharine Trotter Cockburn (1679?-1749) and her niece Ann Hepburn Arbuthnot. My aim is to show that Cockburn and Arbuthnot should both be recognized as Scottish philosophers. I will begin by introducing current scholarship on Scottish Enlightenment philosophy. Scholarship has shown that the Scottish Enlightenment cannot easily be characterized by a set of intellectual ideas and Garrett and Harris propose that “the Scottish Enlightenment is all that happened in Scotland, intellectually speaking, between around 1700 and around 1800. And the philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment is all that happened, philosophically speaking, in that place at that time.” (2015, 4) Next, I will turn to Cockburn and Arbuthnot and their philosophical writings. Cockburn’s parents and her husband were Scottish and she moved with her husband to Aberdeen in the 1720s and lived there until 1736. Arbuthnot was born and lived in Scotland. Cockburn and Arbuthnot were engaged in correspondence between 1731 and 1748. Cockburn and Arbuthnot read, discuss and comment on the same philosophical works as their male contemporaries, who are recognized as Scottish philosophers. Thus, I argue, it is timely to acknowledge their contributions to Scottish Enlightenment philosophy. In my talk, I will present core themes of their philosophical writings and will also draw attention to their intellectual networks.

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