The Columns

Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Philip Kitcher to Speak on Secular Humanism

— by on October 6th, 2016

Philip Kitcher, the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, will give a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar lecture at Washington and Lee University on Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.

The title of the lecture is “The Case for Secular Humanism.” It is free and open to the public. The Philosophy Department is sponsoring Kitcher’s talk.

In contemporary discussions, atheism is typically presented as a negative doctrine, the denial of God, gods, or any other kind of transcendent realm. Kitcher’s lecture presents secular humanism as a positive position. He argues that secular humanism can offer a satisfactory response to challenges often presented for it: it can recognize objective values, and it can address issues about the meaningfulness of our finite lives.

Kitcher won the Berlin Prize which was awarded by the American Academy in Berlin in 2015; was elected as Honorary Foreign Member of the Turkish Academy of Science in 2013; was a fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Berlin Institute for Advanced Study) from 2011-2012.

Past president of the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division and a former editor in chief of Philosophy of Science, Kitcher was the first recipient of the APA’s Prometheus Prize in recognition of his “contribution to expanding the frontiers of research in philosophy and science.”

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; has been a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Berlin Institute for Advanced Study); and, in the fall of 2015, was the Daimler Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

“We are very excited to host Philip Kitcher as the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar,” said Paul Gregory, associate professor of philosophy at W&L. “Kitcher is an excellent and influential philosopher of science, and he is well-known outside academia for his books on the intersections of science, democracy and secularism.

Kitcher’s books include “Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism (2013); “Philosophy of Science” (2013); “The Ethical Project” (2011); and “Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design and the Future of Faith” (2007) which won the Lannan Foundation Notable Book Award.

His co-edited book on climate change, “The Seasons Alter: How to Save the Human Future in Six Acts,” will be published in April 2017.

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.

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