College of Arts and Sciences


  • Smith Examines the Legitimacy of Morality in His New Book

    December 15, 2011

    Philosophy Professor William Smith has just published The Phenomenology of Moral Normativity(Routledge, 2012).  In his book, he examines the question “Why should I be moral?” He draws on contemporary moral theory, represented by Christine Korsgaard and Stephen Darwall, and contemporary phenomenology, represented by John Drummond and others. He also discusses the phenomenological and existential philosophy of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Emmanuel Levinas.

    “The problem of moral normativity has received extensive treatment in analytic moral theory,” Smith said. “However, little attention has been paid to the role that phenomenology might have in identifying the foundation of morality and our moral obligations to others.”

    Smith utilizes a two-part account of moral normativity.

    “The ground of morality itself is second-personal, rooted in the ethical demand intrinsic to other persons,” he maintains. “The ground for particular moral obligations is first-personal, rooted in a person’s endorsement of certain moral norms within a historical situation.”

    Philosophy Professors Therese Cory, Apple Igrek, and Matthew Rellihan will discuss the book followed by a question-and-answer session with Professor Smith at 4 p.m. on January 20. The public is invited to this free event which takes place in Pigott 101 on the Seattle University campus.

    Smith, who graduated from Seattle University in 2002, received his Ph.D. from Rice University. He has been a Core lecturer in the Department of Philosophy since 2008. He specializes in 20th century European philosophy, especially phenomenology and existentialism.

    The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest college in Seattle University, offers 33 undergraduate and 7 advanced degrees.


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