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 research is in the areas of Ethics and the History of Ethics,
with an emphasis on Scottish Enlightenment, Moral Psychology, the Philosophy of Emotion.
He is the current Secretary and Treasurer for the International Adam Smith Society.
Prof. Debes has published journal articles on the moral philosophy of David Hume (two
in British Journal for the History of Philosophy), Adam Smith (in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy), Scottish sentimentalism (Journal of Scottish Philosophy), the nature of emotion (Philosophical Studies), human dignity (Philosophical Perspectives, supplement to Nous on Ethics), and empathy (Synthese).
Recent work includes "Moral Realism and Moral Rationalism" (forthcoming in the Routledge Guide to 18th Century Philosophy), "Moral Sentiments" (forthcoming entry in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics), "Hume on Personal Merit" (forthcoming in Reading Hume on the Principles of Morals, OUP), and "From Einfuhlung to Empathy" (forthcoming in Sympathy, part of the new Oxford Philosophical Concept series). He is also Editor of "Empathy and Ethics," 2011 Spindel Supplement to The Southern Journal of Philosophy, featuring contributions by Stephan Darwall, Peter Goldie, John Deigh, Julia Driver,
Jesse Prinz, Michael Slote, and many more.
Current projects include editing a volume in the Oxford Philosophical Concepts series on "Dignity," co-Directing with Gordon Graham a conference on "Scottish Reactions
to Mandeville" at the Princeton Seminary, and guest editing a special issue of the
Journal of Scottish Philosophy dedicated to the proceedings of this conference.
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.
Dr. Debes serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies.