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Remy Debes

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, Metaethics, Moral Psychology, Empathy, the Philosophy of Emotion and Enlightenment Ethics (esp.  David Hume and Adam Smith). 

Currently Prof. Debes is working on three projects. He is editing Dignity: History of a Concept (under contract with Oxford University Press); he is co-editing Ethical Sentimentalism (with Karsten Stueber, under contract with Cambridge University Press); and he is working to connect his work on human dignity to new research on understanding and respect. 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:

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. He served as the Secretary and Treasurer to the International Adam Smith Society for over 6 years, and is currently on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Scottish Philosophy. He has also organized a number of national and international conferences: Go here to learn about some of the events Prof. Debes has directed. When he is not doing philosophy he is playing pretend games with his daughters, thinking about super heroes, searching for cool new music, or admiring his very mischievous cats.

Curriculum vitae

Selected Publications

"Moral Sentiments," International Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. H. LaFollette, J. Deigh, and S. Stroud.

"Adam Smith on Dignity and Equality," British Journal for the History of Philosophy.

"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) pdf

"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)

Contact Details
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Office: 113 Clement Hall
Phone: 901-678-3352
Fax: 901-678-4365
Email: rdebes<at>memphis<dot>edu
UM drive
Office Hours (Fall 2014): TBA
Personal website
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Last Updated: 3/25/15