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Portrait of David Hume (detail) by Allan Ramsey (1754)

Mary Shaw Kuypers (1891–1973)

U. of Minnesota,
about 1954

Mary Shaw Kuypers may have been the first woman to publish a scholarly book on Hume. She began her teaching career at the University of Minnesota in 1927 as an Instructor in “Orientation.” She received a PhD at Columbia University the following year based on her dissertation: Studies in the Eighteenth Century Background of Hume’s Empiricism. It was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1930, and has since been reprinted by Russell & Russell (1966), and by Garland Publishing (1983).

She reverted to the name Mary J. Shaw in 1935, and in the mid-1940s joined the Philosophy Department at Minnesota as an Assistant Professor. With her colleague, Alburey Castell, she produced two collections: Selected readings in social criticism from Adam Smith to Karl Marx; and Selected readings in social criticism from Rousseau, Burke, and Paine. “Miss Shaw,” as she was known to students, retired in 1959. She died in her native Iowa in November 1973.

Years later a former student would fondly reminisce: “Mary J. Shaw was my principal undergraduate teacher in philosophy and the director (with Alan Donagan) of my M.A. dissertation. Her annual course in the history of philosophy from Thales to Russell, which met five days a week for a full academic year, was an inspiration to me and to generations of students at Minnesota” –Bruce Aune, Metaphysics: The Elements (1985), p. xiv.

A scholarly review of the influence of contemporary science and thought on the various phases of Hume’s philosophy.
       The chapter headings are as follows: I. Introduction. II. Interpretations of Newtonian Science in the Eighteenth Century. III. Reverberations of the New Science in Philosophy. IV. Hume’s Empiricism in Relation to Contemporary Science and Philosophy. V. Empiricism in Morals. VI. Empiricism in Politics. VII. Hume’s Historical Writing. Bibliography.  University of Minnesota Press

These Studies deal with a part of the immediate background of Hume’s thought, which has suffered neglect through the preoccupation of Hume’s critics until recent times with his relation to the English epistemological tradition. The writer accepts the newer attitude to Hume, first set forth by Professor Kemp Smith . . . . Hume’s naturalistic position is regarded as of more importance than the phenomenalism, in which he merely amplifies certain positions reached by Locke and Berkeley; and an attempt is made to interpret his thought as a whole in the light of his confessed enthusiasm for the experimental method.

–Sheila A. Kerr, Philosophy (April 1931)

This modest little book offers very good evidence, in its seven chapters, against “the common assumption that Hume’s earliest interest was in the epistemology of Locke and Berkeley” (p. 12). It sketches the background in science, ethics, politics, and history. In the case of science especially it makes a distinct contribution to our understanding of Hume.

–C.W. Hendel, Ethics (April 1933)


Episodes from a Life in Philosophy,
Bruce Aune ( pp. 2-5)
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