Our 40th Year
2014 marks the fortieth anniversary of the Society’s founding. That seminal event took place at a conference on Hume’s philosophy in late October of 1974, at DeKalb, Illinois. The conference directors were James King and Don Livingston. The two of them directed or co-directed yearly Hume Society conferences for almost the next ten years.
But with that workload, and with new duties in their universities, as well as some new scholarly interests, the fledgling society began to sputter a bit. I became Chair of the Executive Committee in 1984, only to discover that we had just $42 and some change in our treasury – which no one could find – and that the membership list had “blown away at an airport.”
The Chair of the Executive Committee, as I discovered, was also effectively co-director of every conference, and we were far from having a world-wide community of Hume scholars to further the study of Hume’s thought. Over the next several years the Executive Committee made a number of changes towards that end. We forged a new constitution for the Society in the mid-1980s that, among other things, created the position of President, and clarified the responsibilities of the Secretary-Treasurer.
We agreed that our annual meetings would be held successively on and off the North American continent. Our aim in doing so was to encourage scholars who might otherwise, because of their locations, have little or no contact with the Society. Many a relationship has begun at such conferences, and the connections they have fostered have been instrumental in creating a world-wide community of Hume scholars.
The first issue of Hume Studies appeared in 1975, independently produced and edited by John W. Davis, from Western Ontario University. The Society later acquired ownership, making it our official journal. It has since become first rate; and for this we are indebted to Don Garrett and Ted Morris. They agreed to take over the editorship in 1993, for a five-year term. Through good judgment and steady guidance they succeeded in making it a journal for some of the best recent work on Hume.
I am pleased to report that the Society’s treasury now has significantly more than $42. This is partly due to our world-wide presence made possible by our meetings in various cities around the world – Helsinki, Reykjavik, Nantes, Tokyo, to name just a few – and partly due to our website.
Saul Traiger brought the Society into the digital age, around 1995. As Secretary-Treasurer, and then as President, he created the website, entered membership records in a database, and made past issues of Hume Studies available for scholars everywhere. His contributions have been invaluable, and his work for the good of the Society continues as co-editor of Hume Studies, with Corliss Swain.
I have mentioned only a few members of the Society, but the list of those who helped nurture and nourish it is long. It is a cooperative enterprise and the result of a sensibility that would make Hume proud.
Wade Robison is Ezra A. Hale Professor of Applied Ethics at Rochester Institute of Technology. He led the Society as President until 1997.