Who Is Norman Kemp Smith?June 26, 2021
Norman Kemp Smith was born in Dundee, the son of a carpenter. As one of six children, he was the only one in his family to attend university and graduated from the University of St Andrews in 1893 with his work “First in Mental Philosophy”. He then became an assistant at Glasgow University after eighteen months of education at the Universities of Zurich, Berlin and Paris, which lasted until 1906.
Kemp Smith’s first book, “Studies in the Cartesian Philosophy,” was published in 1902, and with great influence, he received his doctorate from St Andrews. At the same time he began to work on Hume, and in 1905 he published two seminal papers in Mind, outlining the Hume interpretation for the first time as a naturalist.
In 1906, Kemp Smith followed a long academic path from Scotland to Princeton. He interviewed Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, for the psychology chair there, and was subsequently appointed to the post. He spent the next ten years at Princeton from 1906 to 1916, taking over the chair of the philosophy and psychology department in 1913. He became a professor of philosophy in 1914. During this period, his commentary on Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” was published in 1918.
In 1916, in a patriotic spirit, he returned to England to contribute to the war effort and worked in various government offices in London.
Norman Kemp Smith
Kemp Smith was about to return to Princeton when he was appointed the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University, succeeding Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, who had previously taught at St Andrews. A few years later, he resumed work on the translation of “Kant’s Critique”. When it was finally published in 1929, it quickly became the standard translation and has continued in print ever since. This translation has been claimed to be more intelligible than the original (it is said) even to German speakers.
In his later work, Smith turned to Hume and edited a new edition of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1935) with a long introduction.
This was followed by “The Philosophy of David Hume” (1941), in which he developed a naturalistic interpretation of Hume, first outlined in the Mind articles and which continues to prove influential in the study and interpretation of Hume.
Kemp Smith retired from the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics in 1945, but continued his philosophical studies and published New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes at the age of 79.
The philosopher who died in 1958, “The Credibility of Divine Existence” was published posthumously in 1967.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım
Source: Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary