Watson, John

John Watson, philosopher (b at Glasgow, Scot 25 Feb 1847; d at Kingston, Ont 27 Jan 1939). Canada's foremost early philosopher, he was a charter member of the Royal Society of Canada and author of 8 books and over 200 articles. He arrived at Queen's in Kingston, Ont, in 1872. Hegelianism influenced much of Watson's writings, which in turn affected the development of religious and political ideas in Canada. He is the only Canadian philosopher ever to be invited to give the prestigious Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh, Scot. These lectures were published in the 2-volume The Interpretation of Religious Experience (1910-12) - a landmark in Canadian philosophical history. Watson's main philosophical interest was the metaphysics of religion and he proposed a rational interpretation of Christianity in Christianity and Idealism (1896). By focusing on reason he provided a commonality around which people could unite, and thus helped build the intellectual foundations of the UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA (formed during his later years). His first books were about the German philosopher Kant. Kant and his English Critics (1881), The Philosophy of Kant (1888) and The Philosophy of Kant Explained (1908) were classics in the field and are still consulted by Kantian scholars. During those same years Watson wrote texts that introduced hundreds of students to PHILOSOPHY. His clear style and unique commentary contributed to the popularity of his publications. In the aftermath of WWI Watson wrote The State in Peace and War (1919), urging world government based on tolerance and multicultural integration. Canada's cultural pluralism and peaceful emergence as a nation influenced his thinking. He advocated fair living conditions for all and rewards for individual effort.