Remembering Peter Euben

The faculty, staff, and students of the Kenan Institute for Ethics are saddened at the news of the passing of J. Peter Euben, beloved Research Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Kenan Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Ethics.

Peter Euben was one of KIE’s founding faculty members, as well as the architect and inaugural director of the Ethics and Society Certificate program.

“Peter brought his remarkable spirit to the Kenan Institute in the early days and helped to shape it,” said Ruth Grant, Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics. “He taught with humor and with love. And those of us who were his colleagues and students remain very much in his debt.”

Dr. Euben received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1968 and had a 34-year career teaching at UC Santa Cruz before coming to Duke in 2002 to become the Kenan Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Ethics, a newly created post. He specialized in ancient, modern, and contemporary political thought; literature and politics; political education; democratic culture and politics; and the politics of morality.

“My heart sank when I heard the news. I met Professor Euben during my freshman year when I took his class on ‘Challenges of Living an Ethical Life,’” said Poorav Rohatgi (T’10). “From that moment until I graduated Duke (and off and on after then), he was my close mentor, always teaching me how to improve my critical thinking and writing skills and encouraging me to pursue the professional passion that burned within me. I will never forget his patient teaching style, his genuine feedback, his not-so-subtle humor, and, of course, his iconic mustache. He will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Peter Euben was the author of The Tragedy of Political Theory, Corrupting Youth, and Platonic Noise; editor of Greek Tragedy and Political Theory; and co-editor of Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstitution of American Democracy. He received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the National Humanities Foundation, and was a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow at the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University.

Read “This is Ethics? An Idiosyncratic Guide” by Peter Euben from DukeToday, May 2010.

“Huntington Post” Op-ed: Lisa Ann Richey on a Problematic Approach to Philanthropy and Humanitarianism

Kenan Institute for Ethics visiting professor Lisa Ann Richey has co-authored an op-ed piece, with Noelle Sullivan, published in the Huntington Post.

Entitled “There Are Better Ways To Fight Poverty Than Giving Money To Corporations,” the article describes how, in turning charity into consumption through campaigns such as Red Nose Day, “corporations and nonprofits distract from how the current unequal global economic system contributes to the very challenges these campaigns aim to address.” How well-meaning individuals are drawn to these campaigns offering “low-cost heroism” was also addressed by Richey in her talk at the April 12th panel discussion “Commodifying Compassion,” held at KIE.

Lisa Ann Richey is a Visiting Professor at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Professor of International Development Studies and Director of the Doctoral School of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University in Denmark. She served as founding Vice-President of the Global South Caucus, and Advisory Board Member of the Global Health Section, of the International Studies Association (ISA).

Ten Undergraduate Human Rights Fellows this Summer

The Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is again running the Pathways of Change program this summer. Students interested in the areas of business and human rights, women’s rights, and environmental justice are matched with internships with partner organizations working for social change across these fields, including Corporate Accountability, Feminist Majority Foundation, and NC Conservation Network. Together they explore the trade-offs between different approaches towards social change.

Sydney Speizman (’17) summarized the positive impact that her internship had on her: “The Pathways of Change program opened my eyes to the complex web of stakeholders and strategies involved in protecting human rights and the environment as the economy becomes increasingly globalized…[it] provided me with both deeper insight into how international development projects can better support the communities they aim to help, and valuable work experience that will undoubtedly shape my future career path.”

In addition to working for 8-10 weeks, Pathways of Change students conduct profiles of the people in their organizations and write “letters home” about the best ways to effect change in human rights practices.

New Kenan research: honesty, respect top list of values important to students

Research which suggests that many students have a fairly well-developed sense of moral identity was recently presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting in San Antonio by Amber Díaz Pearson, research scholar at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, together with Tara Hudson, a post doctoral scholar and collaborator at the University of Notre Dame. The authors found that college students think about the meaning of a moral and ethical life in complex ways and that understanding these ideas can shed light on students’ future participation as citizens of a democratic and pluralistic society.

The paper, “Developing the Moral Self: College Students’ Understandings of Living a Moral or Ethical Life,” presented findings from surveys of undergraduates at two private U.S. universities: one faith-based and one independent. “Honesty” and “respect” were the most frequently cited principles and values identified as important by students, followed by characteristics like kindness, loyalty and compassion. Responses specifically referenced interest in promoting the wellbeing of others, avoiding acts of harm, and doing what is morally or ethically right even when it may not be the easiest choice. One respondent noted it was important to “use your light to bring out the light in others.”

“One of our most interesting findings was how often students used other-centered language when describing their values and what living morally and ethically means to them,” Pearson said. “Over half of responses from students at both institutions referred to other people and their needs.”

The study producing this research was funded by a three-year, multi-institutional grant from the Teagle Foundation. Overall, the study aimed to understand the frameworks of students’ ethical and moral decision-making and identify educational practices that promote moral and ethical development. This research provides insight to institutions seeking to fulfill their missions of educating students for citizenship and lives of meaning and purpose.

Suzanne Shanahan, Nannerl O. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Robert Thompson, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, and Jay Brandenberger, director for research and graduate student initiatives at the Center for Social Concerns at University of Notre Dame are co-PI’s of the project.

Researchers are currently developing articles focused on other findings from the study. The full draft of the conference paper, “Developing the Moral Self: College Students’ Understandings of Living a Moral or Ethical Life,” will be posted in the AERA Online Paper Repository along with other papers presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting.

‘Good Question’ answered: Valerie Ashby on diversity in higher ed

In the latest edition of the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ “Good Question” series, Valerie Ashby, Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, offers insight about how diversity plays a pivotal role on today’s college campus.

Ashby, who took on the role as Trinity’s Dean in 2015, she said she was lucky to inherit a diverse senior leadership team made up of Duke faculty and staff of different genders, race and ethnicities with backgrounds in everything from art to architecture and medicine. Weekly meetings with the group means “I never have to worry about whether or not we can find an answer to a complex problem,” she said, because of all the different ways the team approaches issues that face the university.

“At Duke, diversity is just who we are,” she said.

Read more of Ashby’s ideas on diversity and how it’s played an important role in her life in her Good Question profile.