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Philosophy grad dares to ask the big questions

December 12, 2011

Andrew Khoury’s mother suspected he might grow up to be a philosopher when, at the age of two, he asked her "Mom, what is death?"  

“I think that I've always been interested in the ‘big questions’ for as long as I can remember,” says the ASU doctoral student, who graduates this month with a doctorate in philosophy from the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He plans to pursue a career in academia.

Khoury’s dissertation focuses on ethics and moral responsibility. “The question of how we ought to act seems to me to be one of the most important questions in life,” he says.

Moral responsibility hinges on quality of will rather than free will, argues Khoury. Our internal values are expressed in the actions we take, which reveals what we care about most.

For example, a politician who takes a bribe presumably acts because he cares more about money and personal gain than the well-being of his constituents.

"I've found that I have strong intuitions about moral responsibility, especially with respect to some negligent drivers that I've encountered on my daily bike commute to campus," jokes Khoury.

After completing his undergraduate studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, the native Californian decided to pursue his graduate studies at ASU because of the strength of its programs in ethics. “I especially wanted to work with Peter French (director of ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics and a professor of philosophy) whose work I admire, and who became the chair of my dissertation committee.”

While completing his dissertation, Khoury became a Graduate College Dissertation Fellow and saw one of his dissertation chapters published in a peer-reviewed journal. He also participated in a summer seminar on moral responsibility at Central European University in Hungary, hosted by some of the leaders in the field.

“I’m proud to have completed a dissertation that I am happy with on a topic that is important to me,” he says. "I benefited tremendously from the mentorship, hard work and patience of my dissertation committee (Peter French, Cheshire Calhoun, and Douglas Portmore), as well as the philosophy faculty and staff."

Michele St George

Publications, Graduate College