W&L Professor Wins National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

Angela Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Washington and Lee University

Angela Smith

Angela M. Smith, director of the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics and associate professor of philosophy at Washington and Lee University, has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct research this summer.

Smith is one of 78 winners nationally of an NEH Summer Stipend, which supports individuals pursuing scholarly work in the humanities. About only 8 percent of Summer Stipend applicants get the awards.

The two-month grant will support Smith's completion of the manuscript "Attitude Matters: Responsibility, Respect, and Reconciliation."

"My aim in 'Attitude Matters' is to explore the central importance of our attitudes in moral life. I argue that we are morally responsible for our desires, emotions, beliefs and other attitudes, not because we have voluntarily chosen, cultivated or identified with them, but because they directly reflect our judgments about reasons," Smith has said about her work. "And I argue that we can be morally obligated to have certain attitudes toward others, even though they fall outside our direct voluntary control. Finally, I examine the implications of this view for our understanding of the distinctive wrongs associated with racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice, and provide an account of the attitudinal basis of moral reconciliation with others.”

She suggests that her views of the matter "run against the grain" of most traditional theorizing about questions of moral responsibility, which makes the NEH award especially exciting since it offers significant potential to advance the field.

A magna cum laude graduate of Willamette University, with majors in philosophy and political science, Smith received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. In March, she was named the first director of W&L's Mudd Center, which will be a resource for students and faculty throughout the University.

Smith has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2009, after spending a year as visiting associate professor of philosophy and a fellow in Society and the Professions, the program in applied ethics that has now been folded into the Mudd Center. Before coming to W&L, she was a tenured member in the philosophy department at the University of Washington.

She previously received a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellowship at Princeton University's Center for Human Values for 2013-14.

Smith is the latest W&L winner of an NEH grant. Last year, Richard Bidlack, professor of history, won an NEH Summer Stipend in 2003 to support work on his 2012 book, "The Leningrad Blockade, 1941–1944."

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

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