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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU philosopher Laurence Thomas to be feted in daylong symposium Sept. 21

Moral philosopher is "beloved teacher, brilliant scholar," says Dean Langford

Sept. 8, 2011, by Rob Enslin

Laurence Thomas
Laurence Thomas

A symposium honoring Laurence Thomas, internationally renowned philosopher in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 21, from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. in The Killian Room (500) of the Hall of Languages. The event includes remarks by students and colleagues, including Columbia University’s Michele Moody-Adams. For more information about the symposium, which is free and open to the public, contact Tom McKay, professor and interim chair of philosophy, at 315-443-4501 or

“Laurence Thomas’ contributions to the study of moral theory, of social philosophy and of American blacks and Jews have helped establish us as a world-class liberal arts college,” says Arts and Sciences Dean George M. Langford. “He is a beloved teacher and a brilliant scholar who epitomizes the liberal arts academic.”

Moody-Adams, the Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University, is delivering the keynote address, “Giving Substance to the Examined Life: The Philosophical Thought of Laurence Thomas.” Like Thomas, she is a well-known moral philosopher. Additional remarks are by SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor; Michael Stocker, SU’s Irwin and Marjorie Guttag Professor Emeritus of Ethics and Political Philosophy; Samuel Gorovitz, professor of philosophy; Winston Fisher ’96, a philosophy major who is a partner at Fisher Brothers Management; Langford; Thomas; and various graduate students.

Thomas is the author of nearly 100 articles and of four landmark books: “Living Morally: A Psychology of Moral Character” (Temple University Press, 1989), “Vessels of Evil” (Temple University Press, 1993), “Sexual Rights and Human Orientation” (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), and “The Family and the Political Self” (Cambridge University Press, 2006). His research has been widely anthologized, and has appeared in volumes alongside the writings of legal theorist Ronald Dworkin and political theorist Michael Walzer.

In addition to being an internationally sought-after lecturer (whose invitations include one from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands), Thomas is a political science professor in SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He has previously held faculty appointments at the universities of Notre Dame, Michigan, North Carolina and Maryland; and at Oberlin College. Thomas’ teaching has been widely noted and praised, as evidenced by a feature article on him in The New York Times and his receipt of SU’s Scholar-Teacher of the Year award. He also serves on the board of La Fraternité Judéo Noire, a black Jewish organization in France.

“Teacher-scholars such as Laurence Thomas make an essential contribution to our department,” says McKay. “Our goal is to pay homage to this extraordinary man by engaging in a dialogue about ethics and morality that honors his work.”