A TOP philosopher is set to give a historic series of lectures about moral behaviour at a Scots university.
Professor Linda Zagzebski, from the University of Oklahoma, will examine how we define our own moral behaviour by imitating the acts of those we admire.
She will give a week-long series of lectures, running from the 1-9 October, at the University of St Andrews.
In doing so, Professor Zagzebski will join the ranks of other pre-eminent thinkers who have given prestigious lectures at the university, including Noam Chomsky, Iris Murdoch and Rowan Williams.
In her week-long series of lectures, Professor Zagzebski will examine in-depth “Exemplarist Virtue Theory” – a type of moral theory she invented.
She will also look at the psychological process of admiration and how admiration can often be painful, leading to envy and resentment.
“The basic idea is that we map all our moral concepts around exemplars of goodness, whom we pick out directly through the emotion of admiration,” she said.
“We point to historical or contemporary or fictional persons who are the most admirable: Confucius, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Holocaust rescuers, and ordinary admirable people whom nobody knows but their close friends and family.
“Virtues are the traits of these people. Admirable acts are acts we admire in them. Wrong acts are acts they find intolerable. Exemplarist Virtue Theory is useful for moral education and self-improvement because admiration is an emotion that leads us to attempt to emulate admirable people.”
Established by Lord Adam Gifford in 1888, the lectures are delivered annually, by pre-eminent thinkers in their respective fields, at the Scottish universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen.
Linda Zagzebski is George Lynn Cross Research Professor and Kingfisher College Chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at the University of Oklahoma. She is also President of the American Philosophical Association Central Division.
It will be a return trip to St Andrews for Professor Zagzebski: “I am thrilled to be giving the Gifford Lectures,” she said.
“Ever since I first entered the profession of philosophy, I considered them the pinnacle of lectureships in philosophy of religion, theology, and ethics. St Andrews is a dream venue for them too. I have only been there once, and it was 20 years ago, so I am delighted to be able to visit again.”
The 2015 Gifford Lectures will be delivered bv Professor Linda Zagzebski at 5.30pm on 1, 2, 6, 8 and 9 October at Parliament Hall, South Street, St Andrews. The lectures are free and open to the public.