Susan Wolf

Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Emerita, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

October 9, 2024 — 4:10 PM
Alumni House, Toll Room — UC Berkeley Campus

Add to Google Calendar 10/09/2024 4:10 PM 10/09/2024 6:00 PM America/Los_Angeles Character and Agency

About this lecture We often think of a person’s character as comprising what is deepest and most important about her, or indeed as comprising her core identity or ‘self’. But what is included in a person’s character, as distinct from … Continued

Alumni House, Toll Room - UC Berkeley Campus Berkeley Graduate Lectures [email protected] false MM/DD/YYYY

Department of Philosophy, UC Berkeley

About this lecture

We often think of a person’s character as comprising what is deepest and most important about her, or indeed as comprising her core identity or ‘self’. But what is included in a person’s character, as distinct from the rest of her psychology? This lecture rejects a philosophically prominent account that identifies a person’s character with the set of dispositions and traits that reflect and express the individual’s values as being both too narrow and too vague. One’s character may well include features of oneself that one does not endorse or even know about. And endorsing a value and acting to express it may be too shallow to constitute an aspect of one’s character if it is not reflective of or responsive to the exercise of an active intelligence. Changing the way we understand character to incorporate these proposals will also lead to the recognition of an important sense of agency that has less to do with actions and intentions than we are accustomed to think.

 

About Susan Wolf

Susan Wolf is the Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emerita, where she taught from 2002 till 2022. Earlier, she taught at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, and Harvard University. She received her B.A. in mathematics and philosophy from Yale University in 1974, and her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1978. 

Wolf was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999, and to the American Philosophical Society in 2006. She has held fellowships at Oxford, and the Australian National University; she served as President of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division) in 2010-11; she delivered the Spinoza Lectures at the University of Amsterdam in 2018 and the Locke Lectures at Oxford University in 2023. In 2004-07 she was honored with the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities, and in 2022 she received the Lauener Prize for an Outstanding Oeuvre in Analytical Philosophy. 

Wolf works chiefly in ethics and its close relations in philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Her interests range widely over moral psychology, value theory, and normative ethics. She has made contributions to our understanding of the nature and plurality of value, the importance of moral virtue, the possibility of freedom and responsibility in a deterministic world, and the pursuit of meaning in life. Some of her most notable works include “Moral Saints”, Freedom Within Reason (Oxford, 1990), Meaning in Life and Why it Matters (Princeton, 2010), and The Variety of Values: Essays on Morality, Meaning, and Love (Oxford, 2015).

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