After earning a B.A. at Boston University, Prof. Debes completed his PhD in Philosophy
at the University of Michigan, where he won awards for both his teaching and his dissertation
work, including a Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship in 2005-06. He joined the faculty
at Memphis in 2006. His published research is in the areas of Moral Theory and the
History of Ethics, with an emphasis on Human Dignity, Moral Psychology, Enlightenment
Ethics (esp. Hume and Smith) and the Philosophy of Emotion.
Recent work includes “Adam Smith on Dignity and Equality” (British Journal for History
of Philosophy, 2012), "Moral Realism and Moral Rationalism" (Routledge Guide to 18th
Century Philosophy, 2014, Ed. Aaron Garrett), "Moral Sentiments" (International Encyclopedia
of Ethics, 2013), "Hume on Personal Merit" (forthcoming in Reading Hume on the Principles
of Morals, OUP, Ed. Jackie Taylor), "From Einfuhlung to Empathy" (forthcoming in Sympathy:
History of a Concept, OUP, Ed. Eric Schliesser), and “Adam Smith and the Sympathetic
Imagination” (forthcoming in Adam Smith: A Princeton Guide, ed. Ryan Hanley).
Go here to learn about conferences Prof. Debes has organized and directed.
Current projects include editing Dignity: History of a Concept (under contract with
Oxford University Press), and co-editing Ethical Sentimentalism (with Karsten Stueber,
under contract with Cambridge University Press).
In Spring 2014 Prof. Debes won a 72K grant from the Templeton Foundation to fund a
2014-2015 sabbatical project entitled “Understanding as a form of Respect.” See: http://www.varietiesofunderstanding.com/grant_respect.html
Prof. Debes has taught Introduction to Philosophy, Ethical Theory, Contemporary Moral
Problems, the Philosophy of Law, and graduate seminars on Human Dignity, Empathy,
and Scottish Sentimentalism. In 2009 he 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. He served as Director of Undergraduate Advising from 2008-2011 and in 2011
was the sole recipient of the Dean's Award for Excellence in Advising.
"Moral Sentiments," International Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. H. LaFollette, J. Deigh, and S. Stroud (forthcoming).
"Adam Smith on Dignity and Equality," British Journal for the History of Philosophy (forthcoming).
"Which Empathy? Limitations in the Mirrored 'Understanding' of Emotion," Synthese 175 (2) (2010): 219-39.
"Neither Here Nor There: The Cognitive Nature of Emotion," Philosophical Studies 146 (1) (2009): 1-27.
"Dignity's Gauntlet," Philosophical Perspectives 23 (2009)
"Humanity, Sympathy, and the Puzzle of Hume's Second Enquiry," British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15 (1) (2007): 27-57.
Recent & Upcoming Presentations
“Passionate Persons” Dignity, Respect, and Esteem in 17th- and 18th- Century Moral
Philosophy before Kant , Université de Lausanne, Switzerland (September 2014)
“Mandeville’s Critique of Human Dignity,” Conference on Mandeville’s Fable of the
Bees, University of Helsinki (June 2014)
“Adam Smith’s Answer to the “Why by Moral?” Question,” Kirkaldy, Scotland (June 2014)
“Passionate Persons” – Invited Symposium Paper for Pacific APA (joined by Stephen
Darwall, commentators John Deigh and Tamar Shapiro) (April 2014)
|Associate Professor of Philosophy
|Office: 113 Clement Hall
|Office Hours (Fall 2014): TBA