Visiting Scholar Susan R. Wolf

Susan Wolf photo

Susan R. Wolf (ΦΒΚ, Yale University), the Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one of 16 prominent scholars in the liberal arts and sciences selected to serve as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar during the 2020-2021 academic year. This year’s Visiting Scholars include an Obie Award-winning actor, an expert on criminal law and policy, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry, and an esteemed mathematician, among others.

Wolf’s interests range widely over moral psychology, value theory, and normative ethics. Her research has focused especially on the relation between moral and nonmoral values, the nature and conditions of responsibility, and the idea of meaningfulness as a dimension of a good life. Her most notable works include “Moral Saints” (The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 79, No. 8, 1982), Freedom Within Reason (Oxford University Press, 1990), Meaning in Life and Why It Matters (Princeton University Press, 2010), and The Variety of Values: Essays on Morality, Meaning, and Love (Oxford University Press, 2015). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and to the American Philosophical Society in 2006. She  served as a Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professor from 2009 to 2010. 

Over the course of the year, Wolf will visit Denison University, Marquette University, Wittenberg University, Washington University in St. Louis, and St. Olaf College. With visits held virtually in the fall, she will spend two days with each university meeting with students and faculty, participating in discussions, and giving a lecture that is open to the public. Her public lecture offerings include “Meaningfulness: A Third Dimension of the Good Life,” “Selves Like Us: Reflections on What It Is to Be Distinctively Human,” “Criticizing Blame,” and “Life Lessons: Analytic Philosophy Meets the Dalai Lama.”

“It is always gratifying to engage with bright and motivated students, with academics in other fields, as well as with a general public interested in ideas,” Wolf said. “And this year it will be especially interesting, as we can share reactions to our unprecedented situation—in the time of Covid-19—and consider how it shapes and informs philosophical thinking about what it is to lead good human lives.” 

Learn more about this year’s ΦBK Visiting Scholars at