Noted Moral Philosopher Michael Smith to Deliver 2012 Hourani Lecture Series at UB

Release Date: April 6, 2012

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Princeton's Michael A. Smith will present the 2012 George F. Hourani Lectures in Moral Philosophy April 10-13.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Michael A. Smith, McCosh Professor of Ethics at Princeton University and one of America's leading moral philosophers, will deliver the 2012 George F. Hourani Lectures in Moral Philosophy presented by the Department of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo.

Smith is one of the most important philosophers working in the field of meta-ethics, the investigation of the preconditions of everyday normative ethics. He also is one of the main proponents of a Neo-Humean approach to practical reason. In 2000, his acclaimed 1994 book "The Moral Problem" received the American Philosophical Association's first APA Book Prize for excellence in scholarship.

In the Hourani series, Smith will present three lectures between April 10 and April 13, with the collective title, "A Constitutivist Theory of Reasons." All lectures will take place at 4 p.m. in 509 O'Brian Hall, UB North Campus. They will be free and open to the public. For additional information, call 645-0163.

His April 10 lecture is titled, "The Standard Story of Action"; on April 11, "Reasons for Desires"; and on April 13, "Constitutivism, Reasons, and Rationality."

In "The Moral Problem," Smith argues that moral arguments are a species of rational arguments, nothing that a distinctive feature of practical morality that the participants want to get the answers to moral questions "right." This gives rise to the meta-ethical question about the objective existence of correct answers to moral questions.

Smith also is the author or co-author of several other notable books published by the Oxford University Press and has held visiting posts at universities in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and Japan.

In 2010 he was awarded a Humboldt Research Award ("Forschungspreis") by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

George Fadlo Hourani, who endowed this lecture series, was SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Islamic Culture and Thought at UB from 1967 until his death in 1984 and was deeply respected and loved by his colleagues and students.

David Hershenov, associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, cites Hourani's international reputation as a moral philosopher and as a key figure in the establishment of Islamic studies in this country.

He was the author of several highly acclaimed books in his field, the most important of which is "Islamic Rationalism: The Ethics of Abd al-Jabbar," a leading theologian of the Mu'tazilite Islamic school and author of a comprehensive compendium of speculative Islamic theology addressing God's goodness and justice.

"At the time of Hourani's death," says Hershenov, "one of his earlier students, who by then was a prestigious scholar of Islamic philosophy at Toronto, spoke at the memorial service of his 'rationality, fairness and the courage to speak out on sensitive issues' as well as his willingness to take students under his wing, inviting them to his home and giving them reassurance during time of distress."

"He died before I came to UB," Hershenov says, "but those who knew him memorialized George Hourani as 'uncompromising in his quest for truth, insisting on the highest standard of scholarship, of clarity and thought and the shunning of the sophistical and pretentious.' We are very grateful for the generosity and foresight of this exceptional man, who has permitted us to bring so many outstanding moral philosophers to Buffalo for many years."

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