Katherine Hawley was a much loved and respected member of the philosophy department at St Andrews, who died, aged 50, in 2021.
She grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, before she went to read Physics and Philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, before moving to the University of Cambridge’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science where she gained both her MPhil and PhD.
After doctoral studies, Katherine assumed the post of Henry Sidgwick Research Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge, which she held for two years. In 1999, Katherine was appointed Lecturer at the University of St Andrews, later Senior Lecturer, then Professor in 2008. We were privileged that she remained part of our community ever since. She met her husband, Dr Jon Hesk from the School of Classics, in St Andrews, and married in 2003.
Whilst at St Andrews, Katherine held several senior responsibilities: she served as Head of the School of Philosophical, Anthropological, and Film Studies (which then included Music) from 2009 to 2014, and spent two years as the Director of Research for Philosophy and the School’s Equality and Diversity Officer. She also served as editor of The Philosophical Quarterly from 2005-2010. Katherine’s teaching and collegiate work were coupled with an extraordinary and wide-ranging research career. She was the author of How Things Persist, a book which established her reputation as an expert in metaphysics, and was one of the two main early defences of the ‘stage theory’ of persistence. She also published important papers on identity and parthood. She later went on to direct her intellectual capabilities towards more practical matters of concern with publication of How To Be Trustworthy, and Trust: A Very Short Introduction as part of the Oxford University Press series; and co-edited two further volumes. Her extensive body of published work speaks to what her fellow researchers in the Department of Philosophy have called ‘terrific human intelligence’ and ‘intellectual adventurousness’ – it is this outstanding capacity for original thought for which Katherine was recognised with a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2016 and a Fellowship of the British Academy, which is one of the most prestigious honours that can be conferred on a UK academic, in 2020.
Katherine led a rich life – full of thought, truth and love. She was one of those very, very brilliant people who led by example, by being herself, and had the ability to turn the ordinary into gold. She was determined to live up to her commitments – she always listened to family, students and colleagues; planned carefully to ensure she would follow through; was thoughtful about what she chose to talk about; cautious not to over-promise; and yet would often give generously of her time, acumen and kindness. Hugely intelligent, she was also a wise and gifted leader who cared deeply about fairness and equality as essential conditions in allowing others to achieve their potential. She was respected by everyone who met her. The immense value of her character was also underscored by an ability to see things with humour, and not take things too seriously.
These were immensely practical values, which qualified her not only to be one of the most universally respected thinkers on the subject of trust, but a member of our community whose loss is felt incredibly keenly by all who knew her and across the philosophical world.