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Two Philosophy Professors Win Independent Prestigious Templeton Foundation Awards

Dr. Remy Debes and Dr. Stephan Blatti, both in the Philosophy Department, have received prestigious awards from the Templeton Foundation, but for independent projects. Both faced stiff competition, and it is quite remarkable that Memphis claimed two such awards in a single year. It is an honor for these two researchers, and also for the University.

Dr. Remy Debes was awarded $72,307 in support of a philosophical research project to be undertaken during the 2014- 15 academic year. His project will culminate in a book tentatively titled Peculiar Perspectives: An Inquiry into Respect, Understanding, and Human Dignity.  The project examines the various ways in which human beings understand one another, and argues that one form of interpersonal understanding - empathic understanding - constitutes a form of respect for persons. His grant is part of a larger 4.5 million dollar Templeton project, “Varieties of Understanding,” at Fordham University, which awarded grants to scholars in the areas of Psychology, Theology, and Philosophy. In the Philosophy division there were 161 letters of intent with only 24 applicants invited to submit full proposals, and only 8 selected for funding.

Dr. Debes primary area of research is Ethics, History of Ethics, and the philosophy of emotion. He is an affiliate member of the Institute for Intelligent Systems. In 2009, Professor Debes was named an Alumni Distinguished Teacher, one of four faculty members university-wide to receive this recognition. He was recognized again in 2010 with one of two College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Dr. Stephan Blatti was awarded an $82,311 grant in support of a philosophical research project to be undertaken during the 2014-15 academic year. Civic immortality, the nature of heaven, and ethical and social issues raised by the prospect of human life extension are among the topics theologians and philosophers will explore in research grants awarded by “The Immortality Project” at the University of California, Riverside. In 2013, first-round grants totaling $2.4 million were awarded to 10 research teams for scientific research into immortality. Blatti’s grant is from the second round of funding awarded to scholars in philosophy and theology: only 24 teams and individuals from these fields were awarded grants. His project will culminate in a book tentatively titled Being of Life: Human Animals, Mortality, and the Human/ Nonhuman Divide.

Professor Blatti’s primary area of research is metaphysics—specifically, the problem of personal identity. He serves as Director of the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities, and he is an affiliate faculty member of the Institute for Intelligent Systems.

When you consider the competitive nature of these awards, for the Philosophy Department to have two recipients in the same year is a genuine mark of distinction.  As Professor Debes exclaimed, “It was a joyous surprise for us.” It certainly calls for celebrating the work of these outstanding faculty, who honor the University with their accomplishments.

Go Tigers!

M. David Rudd, President

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