The Kathy Wilkes Memorial Fund
The purpose of this fund is to establish a named graduate award in Philosophy at St Hilda’s College, in memory of St Hilda’s distinguished Fellow in Philosophy, Dr Kathy Wilkes (1946 - 2003).
The fund will primarily benefit students normally resident in one of the countries with which Dr Wilkes was closely associated; these particularly include the Czech Republic and Croatia, but also other countries in Eastern Europe. Should no suitable applicants from these countries apply in any given year, preference will instead be given to a graduate student wishing to work in Philosophy of the Mind, reflecting the distinguished contribution that Dr Wilkes made to that field.
An extract from The Guardian's obituary, published by Bill Newton-Smith on 19 September 2003:
"Kathy Wilkes, who has died aged 57, was a talented and courageous philosopher who took her subject far beyond the confines of academic journals and the traditional classroom.
Long before it was fashionable to talk of networks, she created her own, linking philosophers from east and west. She travelled extensively in eastern and central Europe, Russia and China, putting philosophers in those countries in touch with each other, and with philosophers in the west. For those in the east, she found funds - often her own - and invitations to take them west. Similarly, those from the west were inspired to go east.
As tutor at St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1979 she was the first of that university's philosophers to respond to the invitation of the dissident philosophical community in Prague to conduct clandestine seminars there. She taught in crowded flats with the same liveliness, imagination, clarity and determination to uncover the truth that she practised in Oxford. The philosophers, then working variously as boilermen and window washers, responded with enthusiasm, and Kathy made the difficult and risky trip many times, smuggling banned books in and samizdat manuscripts out.
Harassment by the security police never daunted her, though, inevitably, the authorities eventually denied her visas. This merely galvanised her further and, with friends in the west, she created the Jan Hus Foundation, which was to become a major source of support for the dissident community.
When Prague was out of bounds, she found other places to philosophise with those not free to travel to the west. Throughout the 1980s, the inter-university centre (IUC), in Dubrovnik, was one place academics from the east could meet their colleagues from the west. Kathy became the mainstay of its annual philosophy of science seminar, and her organisational skills, infectious enthusiasm and professional acumen made these gatherings major philosophical events for the participants.
And they were fun. No matter how late the night had been, no matter how much wine had been consumed, Kathy would be back at nine the next morning, gentling the less robust participants into the new day's work.
Always a woman with a sense of adventure, one year she proposed that the two of us should try to get into Albania to meet some local philosophers; we got as far as the no-man's-land between the Yugoslavian and Albanian borders, where we sat discussing realism. Kathy's manner was constant, whatever the circumstances; had it not been for the sun and our heavily armed escort, it might have been in her rooms in Oxford - though after two hours, the baffled border guards decided we were not to be admitted.
Kathy became concerned that philosophers in the east with an interest in the analytic approach had no voice. So, with me as her co-editor, she created a journal to give them just that. Initially known as the Dubrovnik Papers, it now flourishes as International Studies in the Philosophy of Science.
From 1986, she was for many years an innovative chair of the IUC executive committee, and ran a series of economics and political science seminars to prepare the young from central Europe for the transition that had come to seem inevitable - they were instrumental in the development of the Central European University later implemented by George Soros in Prague and Budapest.
When war broke out between Croatia and Serbia, Kathy remained in Dubrovnik throughout the horrific bombardments of 1991, leaving the city only on brief trips to seek assistance, particularly medical resources. To mark her courage and assistance, she was made an honorary member of the Croatian army, and an honorary citizen of Dubrovnik. After the war, she worked tirelessly for the city: raising money, organising mine clearance and re-establishing the IUC, which had been largely destroyed. For this, and her contributions to philosophy, she was awarded a doctorate honoris causa by Zagreb University.
Kathy was educated at Wycombe Abbey school, and took a first in greats at St Hugh's College, Oxford, in 1969. From then until 1972, she was a graduate student at Princeton, receiving her doctorate the following year for a thesis supervised by Professor Thomas Nagel. After a year as a research fellow at King's College, Cambridge, she was elected fellow and tutor in philosophy at St Hilda's, where she remained for the rest of her academic career, a conscientious and gifted teacher.
Her prodigious energies enabled her to make significant intellectual contributions, particularly to the philosophy of mind. Early on, she realised that philosophers interested in the mind had to come to understand, and respect, the work of scientists. She enjoyed the inter-disciplinary contact that this entailed, and developed her own version of physicalism. Her reputation was established by Physicalism (1978) and Real People (1988), and more than 50 journal articles. At the time of her death, she was working on the manuscript of a book on the autonomy of psychology.
Some have sought to understand the world; others have sought to change it. Kathy's goal was to understand the world, but by insisting on the right of others to join with her in seeking to understand it, she did change the world as well."