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
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
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
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
"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
"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."