The First Endowed Chair in Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics

Miami Endowed Chair

The first Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics endowed chair is coming to the University of Miami according to internal sources. It will be the first in the United States and held by Professor Anjan Chakravartty.

According to University of Miami: News and Events, ​ there has been the creation of an endowed chair for the study of “Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics,” which goes to show the advancement of the increase in diverse secular subject matter in the academic realm with even the controversial sentiments about secular, non-religious content in the public domain.

There have been recent studies, according to the report, that the number of the religious is in decline and the world appears to be in the midst of a global secularization. There will be implications for modern life.

The endowed chair was funded through a $2.2 million donation from the Louis J. Appignani Foundation. Bear in mind, though this is a good step, it is the first chair of its kind in the United States of America. The University of Miami Provost, Jeffrey Duerk, explained, “Atheism is a philosophical position to be explored and analyzed, and since we already address the topic in various departments — including our Religious Studies Department — this chair will add to an already established discourse.”

Anjan Chakravartty, will be the new chair and will join the University of Miami on July 1, 2018. Chakravartty is also a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

Otavio Bueno, a philosophy professor, described the timing for the endowed chair a ripe time for the exploration of the complex academic topic of non-religiosity linked to morality. Bueno said, “The U.S. is currently polarized in so many dimensions. Complex issues need to be addressed, and it’s important to talk about them and to have resources to analyze them carefully. … The university, as a research institution, should address these issues—seeking to understand their sources and why it’s so hard to settle them—in interesting, careful, rational and evidence-based ways.”

Bueno continued to explain the position of Chakravartty as having an “impressive outreach ability” with the intention to and ability to take on discussions in an open manner in order for the comprehension of innately complicated issues to be readily available for anyone.

A professor of philosophy who was the chair of the department for 12 years, Harvey Siegel, noted on his first time of meeting the endowed chair donor, Louis Appignani, 15 years prior, where Appignani made it clear in a Miami Herald article that the primary purpose that drove the donor was to challenge “religion” and advocate for “atheism.”

“We tried to find some kind of way that our scholarly ambitions could meet his own ambitions — and after 15 years we found a way to do that — through the endowed chair,” Siegel said. “He appreciates that the U cannot advocate for atheism, but he also appreciates that it’s of value to study the questions in their full historical and philosophical dimensions.”

Appignani had explicit statements in support of some of the most influential people in the living atheist movement in the world today, including Dr. Richard Dawkins.

Appignani expounded, “Dawkins is probably the most influential educator-philosopher who has been expounding the cause of free thinking, questioning facts, and promoting critical thinking. … He met with students, went to classes, and gave a final lecture that filled up the stadium with over 4,000 — he really made a big impact.”

Professor Chakravartty will be teaching on science and humanism in the Fall of 2018. He had his own statements to make to the public as well.

“First and foremost, we’ll be looking at an important area of philosophy which concerns values—a number of issues exploring how the sciences and values intersect with and impact society,” Chakravartty stated, “It’s in the context of this relationship between science and society that I would like to engage the idea of humanism.”

Photo Credits: John J. Reilly Center and the University of Miami

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