March 23, 2010
AMHERST, Mass. — On Thursday, April 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Cole Assembly Room of Amherst College’s Converse Hall, HarvardUniversity philosophy professor Christine M. Korsgaard will present the fifth Amherst Lecture in Philosophy. Her talk, titled “Reflections on the Evolution of Morality,” and a reception following it are both free and open to the public.
The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy each year brings a distinguished philosopher to AmherstCollege for a public lecture. The talk is subsequently published in Amherst’s first on-line e-journal, The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy (www.amherstlecture.org).
Korsgaard’s discussion will focus on why she believes morality is a uniquely human attribute. “In recent years a number of biologists, anthropologists and animal scientists have tried to explain the biological evolution of morality and claim to have found the rudiments of morality in the altruistic or cooperative behavior of our nearest nonhuman relatives,” she explains. “There is one feature of morality that these recent accounts don’t give adequate attention to: the capacity to be motivated by the thought that you ought to do something or by the thought that it is right.” She plans to discuss Darwin’s theory on this matter, explore why she thinks it is unsatisfactory and offer some speculations of her own.
Korsgaard is the author of four books—The Sources of Normativity, Creating the Kingdom of Ends, The Constitution of Agency and Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity—and one of the editors of Reclaiming the History of Ethics: Essays for John Rawls. In recent years, she has taught courses on Kant’s ethical theory, the history of modern moral philosophy, contemporary ethical theory, practical reason and action. She won a Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in 2004 and is a former president of the eastern division of the American Philosophical Association. She works on moral philosophy and its history, practical reason, agency, personal identity and human/animal relations.
Korsgaard earned her B.A. at the University of Illinois in 1974, her Ph.D. at Harvard in 1981 and an honorary doctorate at the University of Illinois in 2004. She has held positions at Yale University, the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Chicago.
Korsgaard’s talk is organized by the Department of Philosophy and is made possible by the Forry and Micken Fund in Philosophy and Science, established in 1983 by John I. Forry ’66 and Carol Micken to promote the study of philosophical issues arising out of new developments in the sciences, including mathematics, and issues in the philosophy and history of science. For more information, visit amherstlecture.org or call (413) 542-5805.