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Contract approach to moral philosophy discussed

April 14, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A professor of philosophy who has extensively researched ethical and political theory and applied ethics will visit Western Michigan University next week to discuss the contractarian approach to moral philosophy.

A Minnesota native, Dr. Jan Narveson is professor of philosophy at the University of Waterloo, where he joined the faculty in 1963. His presentation, sponsored by the Center for Ethics in Society, is free and open to the public and begins at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 18, in Room 3014 of Moore Hall.

Narveson earned a Ph.D. at Harvard in 1961 and spent a year at Oxford on a fellowship in 1959-60. He also has been a visiting professor at several universities, including Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Calgary and was a visiting research scholar at the Center for Philosophy and Public Affairs at Bowling Green State University in 1990.

Narveson's articles and reviews have been published in Analysis, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Ethics, Mind, Journal of Philosophy, The Monist, Dialogue, Canadian Journal of Philosophy and others. He has published four books: Morality and Utility, The Libertarian Idea, Moral Matters, and Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice.

Narveson argues that the right formula for moral philosophy is that of the classical liberal contractarians, who sought principles "on which all could agree." The contractarian scheme applies only to morals. It does not apply to ethics in a broader sense. The "meaning of life" is beyond the reach of the social contract. Morals set in when people collectively decide what rules are the right ones for social interaction. Then people respect each other's general liberty, awarding individuals all rights to do as they please provided they the do not aggress against others.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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