Princeton University Public Lectures Series

Walter E. Edge Lectures

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The Human Prejudice

Bernard Williams, Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford; Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor, University of California, Berkeley:

Tuesday October 15, 2002 8:00 pm, Helms Auditorium Mc Cosh 50:

Many people think that "humanity" is an ethical idea, and that it makes a basic moral difference whether a creature they are dealing with is another human being or not. This is implicit in such as ideas as "human rights", and in one sense of "human values". Some philosophers attack this outlook as a prejudice, similar to racism or sexism. I shall argue that their view is based on a deep misconception, which itself involves an attempt to project human attitudes on to the universe. The only way forward is to argue out from what we care about, and to consider who might belong with "us".


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About the Walter E. Edge Lectures in Public and International Affairs

Founded in 1957 in memory of Walter E. Edge, LL.D. 1946, who served twice as Governor of New Jersey and also as United States Senator and Ambassador to France. The lectureship is supported by a bequest from his estate assigned to the University by his family, and supplemented by additional gifts from them, as a means of bringing to Princeton eminent statesmen from abroad as well as leaders in American public life."

Lecturers have included George F. Kennan on "The United States and the Communist Giants" (1964-1965); John Kenneth Galbraith on "Labor, Capital and Intelligence: Comparative Power in Perspective" (1965-1966); Edward Heath on "When the World Becomes 21" (1976-1977); Isaac Asimov on "The Future of Man" (1976-1977); and Christopher Hill on "Milton and the English Revolution" (1981-1982). Edge, a self-made man who began his career as a "printer's devil" in Atlantic City, was lauded as "Princeton's most distinguished citizen and one of New Jersey's greatest sons" at the time of his death in 1956.