Norman Kemp Smith

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Norman Kemp Smith (photographed in 1947 by Walter Stoneman).

Norman Duncan Kemp Smith FRSE (5 May 1872 – 3 September 1958) was a Scottish philosopher who was Professor of Psychology (1906–1914) and Philosophy (1914–1919) at Princeton University and was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh (1919–1945).[1]

He is noted for his 1929 English translation of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

The Kemp Smith Room in Edinburgh University's Philosophy Department is named in his honour.[2]

Early life[edit]

He was born Norman Smith on 5 May 1872[3] in Dundee, Scotland,[4] the son of a cabinet-maker on the Nethergate.[5]

He was educated in Dundee and then studied Mental Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews, graduating with first-class honours in 1893.[6]


Smith graduated MA from St Andrews University and received his doctorate (PhD) in 1902. He lectured in philosophy and psychology at Princeton from 1906 to 1916, and at Edinburgh from 1919 until his retirement in 1945.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1921. His proposers were Ralph Allan Sampson, Thomas James Jehu, Charles Glover Barkla and Charles Sarolea.[7]

In 1938 he moved to 14 Kilgraston Road in south Edinburgh, a house designed by Sir Robert Matthew.[8]

His translation of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is often used as the standard English version of the text. His commentaries on the Critique are also well regarded, as are his works on David Hume and other philosophers. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1947 to 1948. A portrait by the Edinburgh artist Adam Bruce Thomson is held by the University of Edinburgh's Fine Art Collection.[9]

Kemp Smith died on 3 September 1958 in Edinburgh.[6]


In 1910 he married Amy Kemp (d.1936), and thereafter became known as Norman Kemp Smith.[10]

Books and articles[edit]

  • Studies in the Cartesian Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1902)
  • "The Naturalism of Hume (I)" and "The Naturalism of Hume (II)", Mind, 14 (1905) Nos. 54 and 55: 149–73 and 335–47
  • "Subjectivism and Realism in Modern Philosophy", The Philosophical Review, 17 (1908) No. 2: 138–48
  • "How Far Is Agreement Possible in Philosophy?", The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 9 (1912) No. 26: 701–11
  • "Kant’s Relation to Hume and Leibniz", The Philosophical Review, 24 (1915) No. 3: 288–96
  • A Commentary to Kant’s 'Critique of Pure Reason' (London: Macmillan, 1918)
  • Prolegomena to an Idealist Theory of Knowledge (London: Macmillan, 1924)
  • The Philosophy of David Hume: A Critical Study of Its Origins and Central Doctrines (London: Macmillan, 1941)
  • New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes (1951)


  1. ^ name="times">"Obituary: Prof. N. Kemp Smith – Kantian scholar". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 6 September 1958. p. 11.
  2. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Porteous, A. J. D. (2015). The Credibility of Divine Existence: The Collected Papers of Norman Kemp Smith. Springer. p. 3. ISBN 9781349816552. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  5. ^ Dundee Post Office Directory 1871
  6. ^ a b "Professor Norman Kemp Smith. A translator of Descartes". The Glasgow Herald. 4 September 1958. p. 9. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  7. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Portrait of Norman Kemp Smith". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  10. ^ Norman Kemp Smith (1872–1958), University of Edinburgh Philosophy Department web site. Retrieved 5 November 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Loeb, Louis E. (2009). What is Worth Preserving in the Kemp Smith Interpretation of Hume? British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 17(4), 769–797.

External links[edit]