Lecture to explore moral consciousness in abolition of slavery


Three hundred years ago, slavery was considered legal and moral across the world. Today, it is considered illegal and a great injustice in virtually every country.

The abolition of slavery constitutes one of the great progressive transformations of moral consciousness and moral practice in history, says Elizabeth S. Anderson, the John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies in LSA.

Elizabeth Anderson

Anderson, who has produced a large body of influential work in egalitarian political theory, democratic theory, feminist and social epistemology, and the philosophy of economics and of race, will discuss this transformation in her Distinguished University Professor lecture, “The Political Economy of Moral Progress: Emancipation and Experiments in Free Labor” at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Alumni Center Founders Room.

Distinguished University Professor is the highest professorial title granted at U-M. A reception will follow the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

“It is a great honor to be named a Distinguished University Professor,” Anderson says. “I chose John Dewey as the name of my chair because Dewey’s version of pragmatism has been a central inspiration for my way of pursuing moral and political philosophy. Dewey stressed the continuity of moral inquiry with scientific inquiry and with everyday inquiry into solving the challenges of life. That is a tradition I wish to carry into the 21st century.”

Anderson’s first book, “Value in Ethics and Economics,” applies a new theory of value to such controversial topics as commercial surrogate motherhood. Her second book, “The Imperative of Integration,” which won the American Philosophical Association’s Joseph B. Gittler Award in 2011, draws upon philosophy, the social sciences, and law in defense of a revitalized ideal of racial integration.

She has published more than 60 papers in leading philosophy, law and interdisciplinary journals, which have been reprinted more than 50 times.

Her famous “What is the Point of Equality?” transformed debates about the aims of egalitarianism. Her “Feminist Epistemology: An Interpretation and Defense” helped define the field of feminist epistemology. 



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