Distinguished Visiting Humanist

Speaker Bio Image

Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton

Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications, [Denise Applewhite]

Details of Kwame Anthony Appiah's 2012 Visit
Tuesday, February 21
 1:00 pmExperiments in Ethics Reading GroupGamble Room
 5:00 pmMeeting with the Undergraduate Philosophy CouncilGamble Room
Wednesday, February 22
 10:00 amCosmopolitanism Reading GroupGamble Room
 3:00 pmThe Honour Code Reading GroupWelles Brown
 5:00 pm"African Identities"
Public Address sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Institute
Hawkins Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library
Thursday, February 23
 4:00 pm"Islam and the West"
Distinguished Visiting Scholar Public Address
Hawkins Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library

Reading Groups

Reading Group: Experiments in Ethics

In Experiments in Ethics, Kwame Anthony Appiah addresses the relationship between empirical moral psychology and philosophical ethics. Some argue that the sciences of human nature undermine the authority of moral reasoning, both practical and philosophical, while others disagree. Appiah urges dialogue and cooperation between philosophical ethics and the sciences of human nature. His book addresses the role of experiments in philosophy, the bearing of “situationist” research on the reality of moral virtue, the status of moral “intuition,” the moral emotions and their relationship to moral reflection.

Open to all faculty, students, and staff. Experiments in Ethics is a short and accessible book. We will meet twice to discuss the issues raised by the book. The group is scheduled to meet with Prof. Appiah on Tuesday, February 21 at 1:00 p.m.

First meeting: Thursday, February 9, 7:00pm in the Philosophy Seminar Room (Lattimore 531). We will discuss Chapters One through Three at that meeting and Chapters Four and Five the following week. For more information, contact Prof. Randall Curren at randall.curren@rochester.edu.


Reading Group: Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers

Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006) is a provocative text for interdisciplinary work across the humanities where we frequently confront issues of identity and globalization, and strive to develop models for understanding how people represent themselves in a constantly changing environment. InCosmopolitanism Appiah highlights the relationship between conversation and consensus, arguing for the importance of supporting the former over the latter. At the same time, as a working philosopher, Appiah is a model of how a philosopher works and thinks in the contemporary world, amid changes that range from recent developments in American and British systems of financing higher education to the Occupy movement. We will discuss these broad-ranging issues and their own stakes in his work in a seminar and over discussion with him.

First meeting: February 20, 2:00-4:00 pm, Morey 401. For further information, contact Rachel Haidu at rhaidu@mail.rochester.edu.


Reading Group: The Honor Code

In The Honor Code, Anthony Appiah looks at moral revolutions, picking out what factors lead people to accept new moral standards. By looking at how dueling ended in Europe, at how China came to reject foot binding, at how Britain ended the Atlantic slave trade, and at the ongoing efforts to end the “honor” killing of women, Appiah argues that moral change occurs not through philosophical arguments, but through social and economic changes that reconstitute the very meaning of “honor,” and for these reasons he contends that honor is an important moral concept that needs to be reclaimed to guide our lives.

Open to all students, staff, and faculty The Honor Code is a short book, and it is accessible to everyone. We will meet to discuss the issues raised by the book on February 16 at 3:15 p.m. in Lattimore 531. Anyone interested in the issues of the book is welcome to come to the meeting, no matter much (or little) he or she has read of the book.

The group is scheduled to meet with Appiah on February 22 at 3:00 p.m.

For more information, contact Richard Dees at richard.dees@rochester.edu.


Biographical Information

Kwame Anthony Appiah grew up between England and Ghana, in a multi-national family that now includes cousins, nephews, nieces and in-laws on every continent (except Antarctica). He studied medical sciences and philosophy as an undergraduate at Clare College, Cambridge. After a year back home teaching philosophy at the University of Ghana, he returned to Clare to take the PhD in philosophy in 1982. After finishing his doctoral work, he taught in the United States (at Yale, Cornell, Duke and Harvard), while lecturing often at universities in Europe, Africa and the Americas. In 2002, he started teaching philosophy at Princeton University. His most recent books are Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, Experiments in Ethics and The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. He is currently finishing a short book on the thought of W.E.B. Du Bois.

When he’s not on the road—traveling to discuss his ideas and keeping up with his widely-dispersed family—or busy with his teaching and research at Princeton, Professor Appiah likes to relax at his home in New Jersey, where he and his partner tend small flocks of sheep and ducks. He also works on a number of boards, including, since 2008, as President of the PEN American Center, a writer’s organization devoted to advancing free expression and global literary fellowship, and Chair of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies. One day, he hopes to have the time to finish his fourth novel.