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Gabriel Watts

Gabriel Watts


Early modern theories of the passions (esp. Hume)

I first became interested in historical philosophical theories of the passions after reading Spinoza's Ethics. What I found (not only in Spinoza, but in authors across the early-modern period) was a means of developing an emotional literacy and intelligence that (I figured) I would be able to draw upon should the world conspire to destroy me. I know that this is melodramatic - but it also happens to be how I conceptualise my philosophical research, namely, as an investigation of what it is to have a human affective life; an investigation that can then be drawn upon in the living of such a life.

Happily, the world has not destroyed me. Rather - and rather inexplicably - it has conspired to indulge my study of 17th and 18th century theories of the passions. I obtained an MPhil in philosophy from the University of Sydney while also working for the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, and I recently received a DPhil from the University of Oxford with a dissertation titled A Study of Hume's Philosophy of the Passions. At the Human Abilities research group I will attempt to situate Hume's philosophy of the passions within a broader narrative concerning early modern attempts to redraw the human/animal distinction, and to argue for its distinctive philosophical importance.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, German Research Foundation