Ronald Hepburn

Ronald Hepburn

Aesthetics, Nature and Religion: Ronald W. Hepburn and his Legacy, edited by Endre Szécsényi (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 2020), 341pp. £30 Hardback.

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Ronald William Hepburn was a philosopher whose interests ranged from theology and the philosophy of religion through moral philosophy and the philosophy of education to art theory and aesthetics. Notably, Hepburn is widely regarded as the founder of modern environmental and everyday aesthetics as a result of the influence of papers in the 1960s which pioneered a new approach to the aesthetics of the natural world.

Hepburn was born in Aberdeen on 16 March 1927 and he graduated with an M.A. in Philosophy (1951) and obtained his doctorate from the University of Aberdeen (1955). His tutor at Aberdeen was Donald MacKinnon (1913– 1994), a Scottish philosopher and theologian, the author of A Study in Ethical Theory (1957) and The Problem of Metaphysics (1974).

Hepburn taught as Lecturer at the Department of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen (1956–60), and he was also Visiting Associate Professor of Philosophy at New York University (1959–60). He returned from the United States as Professor of Philosophy at Nottingham University. In 1964, he was appointed as a Chair in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and between 1965 and 1968 he was also Stanton Lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion at the University of Cambridge.

From 1975 until his retirement in 1996, he held the Professorship of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh. He died in Edinburgh on 23 December 2008.

On 18–19 May 2018, a symposium was held in the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Ronald W. Hepburn.

The speakers at this symposium – Arnar Árnason, Guy Bennett-Hunter, Pauline von Bonsdorff, Isis Brook, David E. Cooper, Cairns Craig, Douglas Hedley, James MacAllister, Michael McGhee, Fran Speed and Endre Szécsényi – discussed Hepburn’s oeuvre from several perspectives. The revised versions of their papers has been supplemented by the contributions of other scholars who were unable to attend the symposium and includes an essay by Mary Warnock. This book contains these papers, originally published in a double special issue of the Journal of Scottish Thought, vols. 10–11 (2018–2019).

Full list of essays:

Ronald W. Hepburn’s Agnosticism
† Mary Warnock

Is the Sacred Older than the Gods?
Guy Bennett-Hunter

Religious Experience, Imagination and Interpretation: A Case Study
Peter Cheyne

The Voice of Cordelian Ethics: Imagination and the Loss of Religion
Michael McGhee

Aesthetic and Moral
James Kirwan

Aesthetic Experience, Metaphysics and Subjectivity: Ronald W. Hepburn and ‘Nature-Mysticism’
David E. Cooper

‘Vitality with Repose’: Reflections on the Romantic-Neo-Platonic Legacy in Hepburn’s Aesthetics
Douglas Hedley

‘Pleasing Wonder and profound Awe’: On the Sublime
Endre Szécsényi

Wonder Revisited
Isis Brook

Nature, Aesthetics and Humility
Emily Brady

Nature, Identity and Meaning: The Humanising of Nature and the Naturising of the Human Subject
Fran Speed

Constructing the Aesthetics of Nature
Cairns Craig

Aesthetic Experience as an Educational Journey
Yuriko Saito

Ronald W. Hepburn on Wonder and the Education of Emotions and Subjectivity
James MacAllister

Wonder and the Everyday: Hepburnian Considerations and Beyond
Arto Haapala

Nature’s Beauty: Legitimacy, Imagination and Transcendence in Hepburn and the New Nature Writing
Alexander J. B. Hampton

Metaphysical Imagination in the Flesh: Hepburn with de Bruyckere
Pauline von Bonsdorff

Landscapes of Trauma: a Reflection on Wonder
Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson & Arnar Árnason

Ronald W. Hepburn’s Works: A Bibliography
Endre Szécsényi (comp.)