Univ. Communications – The Undergraduate Philosophy Council enjoyed a week of intellectual stimulation from hosting and discussing the works of a noted public intellectual. Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University and one of the world’s seven most powerful thinkers according to Forbes magazine, delivered two consecutive lectures, “African Identities” on February 22nd and “Islam and the West” on the 23rd. In addition to the lectures, he interacted with faculty and students as well as members of the Undergraduate Philosophy Council.
Appiah (pronounced APP-ee-ah) is the director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton, which, according to its mission statement, aims to “foster inquiry into important ethical values in private and public life.” He grew up in Ghana and attended Cambridge University to study the philosophy of language, and his interests have diversified into moral theory and the history of philosophy. Appiah’s books include Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers and The Honor Code, both of which investigate human behavior in a changing world.
The Philosophy Council, referred to simply as ‘council’ by members, prepared for the visit by reading and discussing Appiah’s ideas. In the Friday meeting prior to Appiah’s visit, 15 undergraduates participated in a discussion led by Randall Curren and Richard Dees, both of the Philosophy department. Professors Curren and Dees introduced Cosmopolitanism and Color Conscious, both by Appiah, and outlined the implications of his ethics and what he means by interconnectedness. Council members enjoyed the opportunity to discuss Appiah’s works before his visit. “I love coming to Philosophy Council. It’s my favorite time of the week,” said member Levan Bokeria ‘13.
Maya Dukmasova, president of the council, has written recently in a Campus Times op-ed: “The Undergraduate Philosophy Council represents a vital collegiate tradition: the regular gathering of people from all academic backgrounds to discuss ideas and to develop critical thinking capacities.” The composition of the council reflects that tradition. For most members, philosophy is one of two majors, but some do not intend to major at all. Meetings feature a student who presents something of interest followed by a discussion. Recent topics have included existential ethics, Locke’s natural rights, and Samurai philosophy. To some, it’s a major source of intellectual fulfillment.
With the visit of such a noted scholar, the council’s intellectual discussions have become a little more exciting. “Professor Appiah’s visit was a unique opportunity for the students of the Philosophy Council to spend time with a truly world class thinker,” said Randall Curren, who also serves as chair of the philosophy department. “I was impressed throughout his visit by his warmth and generosity in engaging students at length, wherever he happened to be.”
The Undergraduate Philosophy Council meets every Friday at 2 p.m. in the fifth floor lounge of Lattimore. Visit the Undergraduate Philosophy Council on the CCC to learn more.
Article written by Dan Wang, a sophomore at Rochester, who studies philosophy and economics.
In the Photo: Kwame Anthony Appiah poses with members of the Undergraduate Philosophy Council. Photo courtesy of University Communications.