Samuel Scheffler
Samuel Scheffler

Samuel Scheffler

University Professor, Professor of Philosophy and Law
New York University

The Afterlife

Lecture I: How People Who Don’t Yet Exist Matter More to Us than People Who Do
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
With commentary by Susan Wolf

Lecture II: How the Present Depends on the Future 
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
With commentary by Harry Frankfurt and Seana Shiffrin

Seminar and Discussion with commentators
Thursday, March 15, 2012
4:10 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
With commentary by Susan Wolf, Harry Frankfurt, and Seana Shiffrin

The lectures and the seminar are free and open to the public.

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About Samuel Scheffler

Samuel Scheffler’s primary areas of expertise are moral and political philosophy.  His work has addressed central questions in these areas, including topics as diverse as consequentialism (its limits and attractions), moral motivation, equality, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, toleration, terrorism, immigration, tradition, and the moral significance of personal relationships. In describing his Tanner Lectures, Scheffler notes “Most of us normally take it for granted that other people will live on after we ourselves have died.  In this sense, we take it for granted that there will be an ‘afterlife.’ The aim of these lectures is to investigate the role of this assumption in our lives.”

Scheffler received his A.B. from Harvard University in 1973 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1977. He joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1977, teaching exclusively in the philosophy department for twenty years,  and then dividing his time between the philosophy department and the Law School for another decade. In addition, he chaired the Berkeley philosophy department from 1985-1989, and he served as chair of the Committee on Budget and interdepartmental Relations in 1997-98. In 2008 he joined the faculty of New York University as a University Professor, with a primary appointment in the Philosophy Department and a secondary affiliation with the Law School.

A prolific writer, Scheffler’s publications include four books published by Oxford University Press: The Rejection of Consequentialism (1982), Human Morality(1992), Boundaries and Allegiances (2001), and Equality and Tradition(2010).  In addition he has authored a large number of scholarly articles and reviews. He was previously an Associate Editor and is now an Advisory Editor of the journal Philosophy & Public Affairs. Scheffler is the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984-85), a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship (1989-90), a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, and a University of California President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities (1989-90). His first book was awarded the Franklin J. Matchette Prize of the American Philosophical Association.  In 2004 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Conversation with History Interview

About the Commentators

Harry Frankfurt

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Princeton University

Harry G. Frankfurt’s work focuses on moral philosophy, philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, and seventeenth century rationalism. Among philosophers, Frankfurt is best known for his work on the philosophy of René Descartes and on freedom of the will. His influential contributions include a hierarchical account of freedom and personhood (in terms of “higher-order volitions”), and his development of a set of ingenious counterexamples to the widely-held thesis that responsibility requires alternate possibilities for action.

Frankfurt is Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, where he was a member of the philosophy department from 1990-2002. He has also taught at Yale University and The Rockefeller University. Frankfurt’s many honors include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford University in 2004. Frankfurt obtained his B.A. in 1949 and his Ph.D. in 1954, both from The Johns Hopkins University.

Frankfurt’s paper “On Bullshit” (1986), which offers a philosophical analysis of the concept that figures in its title, was republished as a book in 2005; touching a cultural nerve, it became an instant bestseller, and has since been translated into 16 languages. A follow-up volume, On Truth (2006), explores the utility for human life of a concern for truth. Frankfurt’s other influential works includeTaking Ourselves Seriously & Getting It Right (2006), The Reasons of Love(2004), The Importance of What We Care about: Philosophical Essays (1988), and Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes’ Meditations.

Seana Valentine Shiffrin

Professor of Philosophy and the Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice
University of California, Los Angeles

Seana Shiffrin’s interests range widely across issues in law and philosophy. Her research focuses on fundamental questions concerning equality, autonomy, and the social conditions for their realization. Specific topics that she has addressed include procreation, promising, contracts, freedom of speech, constitutional law, intellectual property, criminal law, torts, and family law.

Shiffrin has a joint appointment with the Department of Philosophy and the School of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a member of the UCLA Department of Philosophy faculty since 1992, where she teaches courses of moral, political and legal philosophy. At the Law School, she serves as Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice; her law courses cover such topics as contracts, free speech theory, constitutional rights and individual autonomy, and feminism. Shiffrin obtained a B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1988, a B. Phil. from Oxford in 1990, a D. Phil. from Oxford in 1993, and a J.D. from Harvard in 1996.

Shiffrin is an associate editor of the journal Philosophy and Public Affairs and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her influential articles include “A Thinker-Based Approach to Freedom of Speech” (2011); “Inducing Moral Deliberation: On the Occasional Virtues of Fog,” (2010); “Promising, Conventionalism, and Intimate Relationships” (2008); “Are Credit Card Late Fees Unconstitutional?” (2006); and “Wrongful Life, Procreative Responsibility, and the Significance of Harm (1999). Her article “Paternalism, Unconscionability Doctrine, and Accommodation” (2000) was awarded the Fred Berger Memorial Prize by The American Philosophical Association in 2003.  

Susan Wolf

Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Susan Wolf’s work focuses chiefly on ethics and its close relations in philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Her broad interests include moral psychology, value theory, and normative ethics. She is especially interested in issues having to do with responsibility and with the relationship between moral and nonmoral values.

After teaching at Harvard, the University of Maryland, and The Johns Hopkins University, Wolf joined the faculty at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002, where she is the Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy. At Johns Hopkins, Wolf served as the philosophy Department Chair from 1994-1997 and from 1999-2001. She received her B.A. in math and philosophy from Yale University in 1974, and obtained both her M.A. in 1977 and Ph.D. in 1978 in philosophy from Princeton University. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and received a Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities in 2002.

Wolf recently published Meaning in Life and Why It Matters (2010), which is based on a set of Tanner Lectures that she delivered at Princeton University in 2007. She is currently editing an anthology of essays, titled Understanding Love Through Philosophy, Film, and Fiction. She is author of Freedom Within Reason(1990) and such well-known and widely anthologized articles as “Asymmetrical Freedom” (1980), “Moral Saints” (1982), and “Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility” (1987). More recent  publications include “Good-for Nothings” (2012), “Blame, Italian Style” (2011), and “Moral Obligations and Social Commands” (2009).