Holly Martin Smith

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Holly Martin Smith
Alma mater University of Michigan
Institutions Rutgers University, University of Arizona, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Michigan at Flint, University of Pittsburgh
Main interests Biomedical ethics, consequentialism, moral responsibility, normative ethics

Holly Martin Smith (also known as Holly S. Goldman) is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Her widely cited publications focus on questions in normative ethics, moral responsibility, and structural questions common to all normative theories.[1] A recipient of the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellowship at the National Humanities Center (2013-14),[2] she has also held an American Association of University Women Postgraduate Fellowship (1975-76) and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Independent Study (1982-83.)[3] Between 1985 and 2006 she held a series of increasingly responsible academic administrative positions, first at the University of Arizona, including Head, Department of Philosophy (1985-90), Vice Provost for Academic Affairs (1991-June 1993), and Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (1993-July 2001); and then at Rutgers University-New Brunswick from 2001 to 2006: Executive Dean Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Graduate School-New Brunswick.[4] Active in national academic administrative organizations, she served as President of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, a national organization of arts and sciences deans, during 2000-01.[5]

Education and career[edit]

Holly Smith received her early education in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Attending Wellesley College on a National Merit Scholarship, she received her B.A. as First Trustee Fellow in 1966, followed by an M.A. (1970) and a Ph.D. (1972) in Philosophy from the University of Michigan.[4] Smith has taught at Tufts University (1970-71), The University of Michigan at Flint (1971-72), The University of Pittsburgh (1972-73), The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (1973-80), The University of Illinois at Chicago Circle (1980-83), The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Visiting Associate Professor, 1981-82), and The University of Arizona (1983-2001). From 2001 she has served as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.[4] Her internationally noted husband Alvin I. Goldman is Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Rutgers.[6] Her sister Sherri Smith, a prominent fiber artist, is Catherine B. Heller Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan.[7]

Research areas[edit]

Smith’s philosophical work falls into four main areas: issues in biomedical ethics (with an emphasis on issues in reproductive ethics); issues involving consequentialism (the theory that the moral status of our acts depends on their consequences alone); issues concerning our moral responsibility for our actions; and issues in normative ethics that transcend particular normative theories.[4] On questions of reproductive ethics, Smith has defended a liberal perspective, arguing that the fetus has no natural right to the use of its mother’s body during pregnancy,[8] and that it has no right to be “rescued” by the mother.[9] In her examinations of consequentialism, Smith has focused on forms of rule utilitarianism, arguing, contra David Lyons’ influential claim,[10] that act utilitarianism and full compliance forms of rule utilitarianism do not always prescribe the same actions, and maintaining that the project of finding an appropriate definition for “consequences” within rule utilitarianism has been misconceived and is doomed to failure.[11] In discussing questions of moral responsibility, Smith has explored how to assess an agent’s degree of credit or blameworthiness for an action when the agent acts from a mixture of good and bad motives.[12] Her work on the question of whether an agent is blameworthy for a wrongful act done in culpable ignorance is particularly well-known.[13] Her most noted paper is “Culpable Ignorance,” which was named by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles in 1983.[13][14] This article analyses in detail the terms of the debate between the majority of theorists who argue that a person is blameworthy for an action performed in culpable ignorance, versus the minority who hold that while a person is blameworthy for the initial dereliction of failing to acquire information, nonetheless her earlier blameworthiness does not taint the subsequent action, done in culpable ignorance, that arises from it but is itself done from the best of motives. Smith concludes that the only defense for the majority position—a controversial one in law and philosophy[15]—is one that holds people are blameworthy for the unlucky consequences of their actions. More recently she has explored the implications of cognitive and social psychology for questions about moral responsibility, arguing that we should not be held responsible for emotional reactions and behavior that issue from cognitive processes involving automatic (System 1) responses to environmental stimuli.[16] Much of Smith’s work has focused on questions about right and wrong that are common to many distinct ethical theories, including both consequentialist theories and deontological ones (deontological theories hold that the moral status of an act doesn’t depend solely on its consequences, but also on other features of the act, such as whether or not it involves telling a lie or breaking a promise). Her paper “Dated Rightness and Moral Imperfection”[17] helped launch a debate now known as the debate between Actualism and Possibilism by arguing for the first time in favor of Actualism.[18] Possibilists believe that whether or not the agent ought to perform an immediate action depends on whether performing it would enable her to follow the ideal course of action in the future. Actualists believe that whether or not an agent ought to perform the action depends on what performing that action would actually lead her to do in the future.

The issue is illustrated by an example from Smith/Goldman’s later paper “Doing the Best One Can.”[19] A graduate student asks faculty member S for comments on a paper he plans to present at a job interview. If S agrees and comments on the paper, the student will improve the paper substantially, have a highly successful interview, and receive an offer for a three year job. If S accepts the task but fails to comment on the paper in time, the student will make no revisions, have a dismal interview, and receive no job offer. If S declines to provide comments, the student will elicit comments from a less expert faculty member, make less helpful revisions on the paper, have a moderately successful interview, and receive a one-year job offer. Clearly S’s accepting the task would enable her to follow the ideal course of action, namely reading and commenting on the paper in a timely way, resulting in the student’s receiving a three year job. However, the sad fact is that if S accepted the task, she would actually fail to comment on the paper in time, either because she would misunderstand what the deadline is, or because she would become bogged down in administrative chores. In this case the student would receive no job offer. Possibilism recommends S’s agreeing to comment, since of her two options, her agreeing enables her to follow the best course of action. Actualism takes a more realistic stance: it recommends S’s declining to comment on the paper, since of her two options, declining to provide comments would actually lead to a better course of action than agreeing to provide comments. Smith argues we should reason about this case the same way we reason about prudential decisions, as when we decide not to buy potato chips at the grocery store because we know once we bring the chips home we will not be able to keep ourselves from eating the whole package at one sitting.

Another issue that has occupied much of Smith’s attention is the question of how ordinary individuals are to use moral theories in actual decision-making, especially given the fact that people are not omniscient and so frequently lack enough information about the world to ascertain accurately which action their favored moral theory recommends. Thus someone trying to follow the Ten Commandments by not committing adultery may unwittingly violate the commandments by engaging in intercourse with a partner who, unknown to the agent, is actually married. And someone trying to follow W. D. Ross’s prima facie duty to keep promises may be unable to determine what to do if she cannot remember what she promised. Smith has explored these “epistemic” problems for morality in a number of papers,[20] and argued that the solution depends on recognizing that moral theories, taken as theoretical accounts of right and wrong, must be supplemented by a hierarchy of decision rules that prescribe acts as “subjectively right” to agents who are uncertain what the moral theory itself recommends. Smith was awarded a National Humanities Center Fellowship during 2013-14 to complete a book manuscript on this cluster of epistemic challenges to using morality to make decisions.

Awards and fellowships[edit]

Smith’s article "Culpable Ignorance"[13] was selected by The Philosopher's Annual as one of the ten best articles to appear in print in 1983.[14] Fellowships supporting her research[4] have included a Danforth Graduate Fellowship (1966-71),[21] an American Association of University Women Postgraduate Fellowship (1975-76);[22] a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Independent Study (1982-83),[3] a Council for Philosophical Studies Institute on Moral Problems in Medicine Fellowship; a Visiting Fellowship from the School of Philosophy, Research School of the Social Sciences, The Australian National University (Summer 2011);[23] and the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellowship, National Humanities Center (2013-14).[2] While dean she was elected to the Presidency of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (2000-01).[5] She also served as chair of the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Program Committee, 1989-90,[24] and is a member of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Editorial Board as subject co-editor for Normative Ethics (from August 2013).[25]

Selected publications[edit]

  • "Dated Rightness and Moral Imperfection," The Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXXV (October 1976), 449-487 (published under the name Holly S. Goldman).
  • "Doing the Best One Can," in Values and Morals, eds Alvin Goldman and Jaegwon Kim (Reidel, 1978), 186-214 (as Holly S. Goldman).
  • "Culpable Ignorance," The Philosophical Review, Vol. XCII (October, 1983), 543-571.
  • "Making Moral Decisions", Nous, Vol. XXII, No. 1 (March 1988), 89-108.
  • "Varieties of Moral Worth and Moral Credit," Ethics, Vol. 101 (January 1991), 279-303.
  • “A Paradox of Promising,” The Philosophical Review, Vol. 106, No. 2 (April 1997), 153-196.
  • “Subjective Rightness”, in Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (Summer 2010), 64-110.
  • “Non-Tracing Cases of Culpable Ignorance”, Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol. 5, Issue 2 (2011), 115-146.
  • “The Moral Clout of Reasonable Beliefs,” in Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. I (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1 – 25.
  • “The Subjective Moral Duty to Inform Oneself before Acting”, forthcoming in Ethics.

References[edit]

  1. ^ See Google Scholar.
  2. ^ a b Fellows and Their Projects, 2013-2014, National Humanities Center.
  3. ^ a b NEH Grants.
  4. ^ a b c d e Holly Martin Smith page at Rutgers
  5. ^ a b Past CCAS Presidents - Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences
  6. ^ "Goldman, Alvin", biography at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences; Alvin I. Goldman page at Rutgers.
  7. ^ "Sherri Smith, Catherine B. Heller Collegiate Professor, School of Art & Design", Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Michigan; Sherri smith webpage.
  8. ^ "Whose Body Is It, Anyway?" in James Thomberlin, ed., Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 6 (Atascadero, California: Ridgeview Publishing Company, 1992), 73-96.
  9. ^ "Fetal-Maternal Conflicts," in In Harm's Way: Essays in Honor of Joel Feinberg, edited by Allen Buchanan and Jules Coleman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 324-343; and "Intercourse and Moral Responsibility for the Fetus," in Abortion and the Status of the Fetus, Vol. XIII of the series, "Philosophy of Medicine," eds William B. Bondeson, H. Tristram Englehardt, Stuart Spicker, and Daniel H. Winship (Dordrecht, Holland/Boston, Massachusetts: D. Reidel, 1983), 229-245.
  10. ^ David Lyons, Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965).
  11. ^ "David Lyons on Utilitarian Generalization", Philosophical Studies, Vol. 26 (October 1974), 77-94 (as Holly S. Goldman); and “Measuring the Consequences of Rules”, Utilitas, Vol. 22, No. 4, December 2010, 413–433.
  12. ^ "Varieties of Moral Worth and Moral Credit", in Ethics, Vol. 101 (January 1991), 279-303.
  13. ^ a b c "Culpable Ignorance", The Philosophical Review, Vol. XCII (October 1983), pp. 543-571; “Non-Tracing Cases of Culpable Ignorance”, Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol. 5, Issue 2 (2011), 115-146; and “The Subjective Moral Duty to Inform Oneself before Acting,” forthcoming in Ethics.
  14. ^ a b The Philosopher's Annual, Vol. VI, from the literature of 1983.
  15. ^ Daniel Statman, Moral Luck (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1993).
  16. ^ “Non-Tracing Cases of Culpable Ignorance”, Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol. 5, Issue 2 (2011), 115-146; “Dual-Process Theory and Moral Responsibility,” forthcoming in Michael McKenna, Angela Smith, and Randolph Clarke (eds), The Nature of Moral Responsibility (Oxford University Press).
  17. ^ "Dated Rightness and Moral Imperfection", The Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXXV (October, 1976), 449-487 (as Holly S. Goldman).
  18. ^ Holly S. Goldman, "Dated Rightness and Moral Imperfection", The Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXXV (October 1976), n. 16, p. 246.
  19. ^ "Doing the Best One Can," in Values and Morals, eds Alvin Goldman and Jaegwon Kim (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1978), 186-214. Published under the name Holly S. Goldman.
  20. ^ "Making Moral Decisions", Nous, Vol. XXII, No.1 (March 1988), 89-108; "Two-Tier Moral Codes", Social Philosophy & Policy, Vol. 7 (Autumn 1989), 112-132; "Deciding How To Decide: Is There a Regress Problem?" in Michael Bacharach and Susan Hurley (eds), Essays in the Foundations of Decision Theory, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991, 194-219; “Subjective Rightness”, in Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (Summer 2010), 64-110; “The Prospective View of Obligation”, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, February 2011; “Non-Tracing Cases of Culpable Ignorance”, Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol. 5, Issue 2 (2011), 115-146; “Using Moral Principles to Guide Decisions”, Philosophical Issues, Vol. 22, Action Theory (2012), 369-86; “The Moral Clout of Reasonable Beliefs,” in Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. I (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 1–25; “The Subjective Moral Duty to Inform Oneself before Acting”, forthcoming in Ethics.
  21. ^ Danforth Foundation (St. Louis, Mo.) Danforth Foundation annual report (1962-1969). St. Louis Public Library.
  22. ^ Washington: American Association of University Women. AAUW Journal, v. 55, no. 2-v. 71, no. 5 (January 1962-April 1978). Library of Congress 1756.A2 A5.
  23. ^ RSSS Visiting Fellows - Research School of Social Sciences - ANU
  24. ^ Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association. Program of the Sixty-Fourth Annual Meeting Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 63, No. 4 (December 1989), pp. 3-55.
  25. ^ Editorial Board (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

External links[edit]