New York University Philosophy Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah addressed "Ethics in Theory and Practice" during a special assembly with RE students on Feb. 16 and "What is College For?" in an evening event with RE parents; both talks were part of the school's Holzman Center of Applied Ethics Speaker Series. Appiah, also The New York Times ethics columnist, explored what it means to live well and the value of a liberal arts education.
Associate Head of School John A. King Jr., the director of the ethics center, introduced Appiah, the author of a number of books including The Ethics of Identity and The Honor Code: How Moral RevolutionsHappen.
Summoning philosophical teachings from Aristotle to Ronald Dworkin, Appiah touched on consequentialism, behavior, community, roles and responsibilities, freedom, individuality, autonomy and other topics. He also touched on identity ethics, sharing some details about his family: his father was a member of parliament in Ghana; his mother, a novelist and art collector, hailed from England.
In the session with parents, Appiah challenged the delusion that attending certain colleges and universities leads to a rewarding life. "If your self-worth is tied to feeling better than others, you're in for trouble," he said.
"We need conversation across cultures," he also said. "When done right, it's hugely rewarding ... We need people to engage in cosmopolitan conversation so we can solve [the world's] problems together."
Appiah was the second featured Holzman speaker in 2022-23. Upper school students also heard in December from Kathleen Sullivan, the former Stanford Law School Dean. Steve Holzman P’21, who supplied the seed funding for the center, and attorney John O’Sullivan P’14 ’21, who offered additional support, attended the morning event at the Lewis Family Auditorium. Appiah addressed parents at the Posner Lecture Hall in the Fernandez STEM Center.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.