a conference co-sponsored by the

Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society

and the

Institute for the Study of Scottish Philosophy 

4–7 June 2020

Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

A decade after its memorable 2010 conference on “The Science of Mind and Body in the Scottish Enlightenment,” ECSSS returns to Princeton Theological Seminary for a conference focused on religion and Enlightenment. We invite proposals for 20-minute papers (or 90-minute panels or round tables) on any aspect of this topic, including approaches that are philosophical, historical, theological, literary, scientific or medical, social or political. Papers on other aspects of eighteenth-century Scottish thought and culture are also welcome, as are papers on connections (especially religious and philosophical) between Scotland and North America. 

Plenary addresses will be delivered by Martha McGill, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick and author of Ghosts in Enlightenment Scotland(2019), speaking on bodies, selves, and the supernatural in Enlightenment Scotland, and Sam Fleischacker, LAS Distinguished Professor of Philosophy  at the University of Illinois-Chicago and author of Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy (2019), speaking on Adam Smith's religious views.

The conference will again feature a Saturday afternoon excursion to the spectacular Grounds for Sculpture, followed by a conference dinner at the Princeton Theological Seminary, where Gordon Graham, now Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at PTS, will receive ECSSS’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Registration will be available through this website starting January 20th. Prices are as follows:

Registration Before 1 April
2020 Regular Price: $250
Discount Price for ECSSS or ISSP Members: $225
Graduate Students/Retirees/Unwaged/Guests of those registered: $175

After 1 April 2020
Regular Price: $280
Discount Price for ECSSS or ISSP Members: $250
Graduate Students/Retirees/Unwaged/Guests of those registered: $200

You may register for the conference here.

A draft program may be found here.

You may join the ECSSS here, and/or the ISSP here (through EUP's website). Membership is not required, but does confer a discount on registration fees. ISSP membership includes a digital subscription to the Journal of Scottish Philosophy.

For questions, e-mail

Previous Events:  

March 2019: Sociability and Solidarity in Scottish Philosophy

Program Organizers:

Christian Maurer (University of Lausanne), Giovanni Gellera (University of Lausanne), James Foster (University of Sioux Falls)

Plenary Speakers:
  • Alexander Broadie, University of Glasgow
  • Daniel Carey, NUI Galway
  • Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Jacqueline Taylor, University of San Francisco

Societies are kept together by different kinds of glue. Self-interested factors such as the fear of leaving society, and the awareness of various benefits of living with others may play their roles. Yet there are also other factors, such as forms of natural sociability, benevolence and sympathy, solidarity with other members of society, and tolerance with respect to different opinions and values. Sometimes religion is considered helpful for keeping societies together, sometimes it is presented as the very cause of division. The nature, potential and limits of tolerance, sociability, solidarity and the role of religion were discussed by many philosophers in the Scottish tradition, and in particular in the Scottish Enlightenment. The first conference of the new Institute for the Study of Scottish Philosophy (ISSP), to be held in Lausanne (Switzerland) on 8-10 March 2019, will explore these issues.

March 2018: The Scottish Tradition: Explaining its Rise, Understanding its Legacy.

Program Organizers

James A. Harris (University of St Andrews) and Remy Debes (University of Memphis)

Plenary Speakers
  • Rebecca Copenhaver (Lewis and Clark)
  • Jennifer Keefe (University of Wisconsin, Parkside)
  • Silvia Sebastiani (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)

Opinions differ as to the period of time over which a Scottish philosophical tradition can be identified. Some find signs of it as early as Duns Scotus (1266?-1308) and as late as John Macmurray (1891-1976). Others regard the period of the Scottish Enlightenment as key, locating the tradition’s origins in Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), its culmination in Sir William Hamilton (1788-1856), and seeing its demise with the rise of the Scottish Idealists led by Edward Caird (1835-1908). Whichever period we focus on, however, its rise and its significance provide further occasions for debate and disagreement. Is the Scottish tradition distinctive in terms of topics and/or philosophical doctrines? Or can it be subsumed without significant loss within the broader category of British moral philosophy? Does it have special strengths in its choice of philosophical method, or is it merely a version of empiricism? Is Hume a key player or an outsider? Is Reid’s ‘common sense’ at the core of it all, or merely one phase in its history? Are the Scottish Idealists to be included or excluded from the tradition? Is there continuing value in identifying a ‘Scottish philosophical tradition’, or is it an ex post facto invention born of nostalgia?

May 2017: Hume’s Dialogues: a Symposium

David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion were not published until after his death, probably because of the controversy they were expected to cause. Since their publication there have been deep and wide ranging changes in philosophy, but the Dialogues have retained their ability to generate intense philosophical debate. They remain, arguably, the single most important work ever to be published in the philosophy of religion. The third and final event in the CSSP’s 2016-17 program will be a symposium on the Dialogues.

March 2017: Science in the Scottish Enlightenment

The philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment was marked by a distinctive ambition – to extend the observational methods of science to the study of the human as well as the physical world. The pursuit of this ambition led to many innovative studies of mind and metaphysics, as well as morality, aesthetics and politics. It also led to an investigation of the methods themselves, and the conception of ‘science’ that underlay them. This conference aims to explore many of these important topics, both philosophically and historically.

Future Events

  • 2021 – Antwerp, Belgium: In collaboration with the University of Antwerp.
  • 2022 – Tokyo, Japan: In collaboration with the International Christian University and the ISSP Asian Network.
  • 2023 – St Andrews, Scotland: In collaboration with the University of St Andrews.