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Harvard Nabs NYU Philosopher

By Yingzhen Zhang, Crimson Staff Writer

Strengthening a Philosophy department whose ranks have been depleted by departures and the death of one of its leading lights, Harvard has recruited prominent New York University (NYU) bioethicist and moral philosopher Frances M. Kamm.

Kamm will assume a tenured joint professorship at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences next fall. She will be returning to Harvard

Professors and administrators in both the KSG and the FAS Department of Philosophy said Kamm will be an important addition to the University.

Kamm gives the Kennedy School instant prestige in a field where it hadn’t previously had an overwhelming presence.

“The addition of Kamm has helped make the Kennedy School the single most distinguished institution in moral and political philosophy,” said Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Philosophy Mathias Risse, who taught with Kamm when Kamm was a fellow at KSG’s Center for Ethics and the Professions.

“There have been moral questions that other philosophers have been thinking for a long time about, and she comes up with insights that nobody else has ever had,” Risse added.

Kamm will also reinforce the Department of Philosophy—which lost three professors last year, including Pellegrino University Professor Robert Nozick, who died of stomach cancer.

“We’re extremely delighted to have Frances Kamm join us,” said Department Chair Thomas M. Scanlon Jr.. “She’s an outstanding contributor to moral philosophy and brings another dimension to it with her expertise in medical ethics.”

According to Loeb Associate Professor of Philosophy Alison Simmons, the department is “working very hard” to strengthen contemporary metaphysics, epistemology and the history of philosophy.

“Every addition to the philosophy department is significant considering our relatively small size,” said Simmons. “We’re hoping to continue to grow.”

Students in the department also lauded Kamm’s recruitment.

“The department is in a period of transition, and it’s comparatively weak in philosophy of science,” said Anthony B. Corsentino, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy. “Kamm’s appointment came as a very happy piece of news.”

In an e-mail, Kamm said she was interested in more work between schools, including pursuing bioethics at the Medical School.

In addition to her numerous tomes and articles on ethics, Kamm has also held several prestigious fellowships, including the Guggenheim. And beyond academia, she consults on ethics for the World Health Organization.

—Staff writer Yingzhen Zhang can be reached at zhang9@fas.harvard.edu.

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