Bard Professor Kathryn Tabb Receives $40,000 NEH Fellowship in Support of Her Book Project Agents and Patients: John Locke’s Ethics of ThinkingANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College Assistant Professor of Philosophy Kathryn Tabb has been awarded $40,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund her book project, Agents and Patients: John Locke’s Ethics of Thinking, that explores Locke’s theory of psychopathology and its implications for his philosophical theories. Based on her dissertation, which focused on laying out Locke’s theory of madness as caused by the association of ideas, this book will be the first to present Locke’s theory of irrationality, and will invite other scholars to challenge how we think about Locke—and perhaps other historical figures—on key themes such as personal identity, nativism, religious toleration, freedom and enslavement, private property, and empire. The NEH grant will support her work over an 8-month term beginning in January. Previously, Tabb was an investigator for the NEH grant project, “Humanities Connections Curriculum for Medicine, Literature, and Society” (2017–20).
“I’m so grateful to the NEH and to Bard for providing me with the support I need to dedicate this whole academic year to research and writing. It’s an enormous luxury, and will allow me, I hope, to finally finish a project that has been a long time coming,” said Tabb.
John Locke’s wide corpus of writings is generally considered to contribute to three areas of philosophy, namely politics, metaphysics, and epistemology. But Locke was also a doctor. Tabb’s account presents him not primarily as a political theorist, metaphysician, or epistemologist, but rather as a physician concerned with reason and its limits. Tabb sees the normative study of the mind as Locke’s central project, and some of his most celebrated theories as deriving from it. Locke thought that the correct management of our ideas over the course of a lifetime was requisite for discovering truth, living virtuously under a commonwealth, and assuring our salvation. In this sense Locke’s central project, what Tabb terms his ethics of thinking, provides the foundation for his assessments of what sort of lives—and, indeed, which lives—are worth living. Because of Locke’s influence on American colonists, these assessments found their way into the founding documents of the states, justifications for the imperialist project, and, later, the terms in which independence was conceived of and argued for.
Tabb will present her account of Locke’s ethics of thinking through a series of what he would call archetypes: kinds of people who exemplify the various ways in which we can go right—and more often wrong—in the conduct of our understandings. Taken together, these archetypes will allow the reader to recognize previously unappreciated commitments in Locke’s work that ground Locke’s ethics of thinking. The book’s chapters will work together to present Locke’s ethics of thinking and show how it motivates diverse facets of his philosophy.
#About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at neh.gov.
#About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 13 programs; eight early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 164-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.
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