Orange Alert

Foremost expert on religion, morality to lecture at SU April 16

Robert Merrihew Adams, of UNC-Chapel Hill, is a defender of theistic morality

April 9, 2013, by Rob Enslin

Robert Merrihew Adams
Robert Merrihew Adams

The Syracuse University Humanities Center continues its spring symposium series with a lecture by one of the world’s leading authorities on morality, religion, and metaphysics.

Robert Merrihew Adams--Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and this year’s Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in The SU Humanities Center—will discuss “Responsibility for Good and Bad Outcomes” on Tuesday, April 16, at 3:30 p.m. in The Kilian Room (500) of the Hall of Languages. The lecture is free and open to the public, and is followed by a reception. For more information, contact Karen Ortega in The SU Humanities Center at 315-443-5708 or

Adams’ lecture is co-sponsored by The SU Humanities Center and the Department of Philosophy, and is part of a two-week Watson Distinguished Visiting Professorship.

“We are honored to have Robert Adams serve as this year’s Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The SU Humanities Center. “He works on topics of enduring interest to not only philosophers, but also humanists of all backgrounds—issues such as the relationship between God and morality, the nature of good and virtue, and the history of thought.”

Adams’ lecture is expected to draw, in part, from two of his books, “A Theory of Virtue: Excellence in Being for the Good” (2006) “Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics” (1999), which have triggered considerable philosophical discussion since their publication by Oxford University Press.

“Adams is the preeminent defender of a theistic morality,” says Ben Bradley, associate professor and chair of philosophy. “But even among non-theists, his work is admired for its clarity and subtlety. His defense of a divine command theory of morality is often taught in introductory ethics classes. He also has done groundbreaking work on the metaphysics of actuality and possibility and on the philosophy of G.W. Leibniz [the 17th-century German philosopher and mathematician].”

Adams is no stranger to Central New York, having lectured at SU before and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in philosophy in from Cornell University. His seminal work in the philosophy of religion, the history of modern philosophy (i.e., the 17th and 18th centuries), ethical theory, and metaphysics has led to faculty appointments at multiple institutions, including Yale University, UCLA, and the University of Michigan, at all three of which he holds emeritus status. Adams joined the faculty of UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009.

In addition to four book projects, Adams is the author of more than a hundred articles, essays, and book reviews. He is a fellow of both the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor is named for the late Jeanette K. Watson '52, who attended The College of Arts and Sciences and was a strong supporter of the humanities. Her professorship brings a scholar or writer of national distinction to campus for an extended period of time or for several short visits to contribute to ongoing research, conduct a seminar, or participate in a number of related events.  

The SU Humanities Center, founded in 2008, fosters public engagement in the humanities, and is home to the Central New York Humanities Corridor; the Watson Visiting Collaborator and Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professorship programs; the HC Mini-Seminar and Syracuse Symposium Seminar series; and other research initiatives, annual fellowships and public programming.

Media Contact

Rob Enslin