Professor Allen Buchanan Receives 2015-2016 Romanell Professorship

September 1, 2015 Contact: Laura Hartnett 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Allen Buchanan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and annual Visiting Professor of Philosophy of International Law at King’s College London School of Law, is Phi Beta Kappa’s Romanell Professor in Philosophy for 2015-2016.

The Romanell Professorship, awarded annually, recognizes the recipient’s distinguished achievement and substantial contribution to the public understanding of philosophy. Phi Beta Kappa provides a $7,500 stipend to supplement the awardee’s salary, and the professor gives a series of three lectures open to both their institution’s academic community and the general public.

Buchanan’s lecture series focus on the topic “Moral Progress and Evolution.”  The three lectures will be “What is Moral Progress and Has There Been Any?,” “Is the Evolutionary Explanation of Morality Bad News for the Possibility of Moral Progress?,” and “A Realistic Theory of Moral Progress, Informed by Evolutionary Theory.”

Buchanan’s “work is groundbreaking, and his topic is urgent and apt” said J.D. Trout, a member of the panel of judges for the professorship.

Allen Buchanan is a philosopher of unusual breadth who has combined theory with practice.  Throughout his career he has explored new topics in a way that has generated extensive literatures.  He co-authored the first book on the ethics of decision-making regarding incompetent patients (DECIDING FOR OTHERS), wrote the first book on the morality of secession (SECESSION: THE MORALITY OF POLITICAL DIVORCE), co-authored the first systemic exploration of the implications of the genomic revolution for our understanding of principles of justice (FROM CHANCE TO CHOICE: GENETICS AND JUSTICE), wrote the first systemic work on the moral foundations of international law in English (JUSTICE, LEGITIMACY, AND SELF-DETERMINATION: MORAL FOUNDATIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW) and, most recently, produced the first book on the moral justification for having a system of international legal human rights (THE HEART OF HUMAN RIGHTS).

In addition to his scholarly work, Buchanan has participated in policy-making processes at the national and international levels, serving as a consultant or staff member to four U.S. Presidential Bioethics Commissions, as a member of the Advisory Board for the National Human Genome Research Institute, as a consultant to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Committee on Genetic Testing, as a staff member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiences, as a consultant to the UN High Commissioner on National Minorities, as a consultant to the Government of Canada on the Supreme Court Reference Ruling on Quebec Secession, and as a consultant to the drafting committee of the Ethiopian Constitution of 1993.

Phi Beta Kappa is honored to present Dr. Buchanan with the 2015-2016 Phi Beta Kappa-Romanell Professorship.

About the Phi Beta Kappa Society

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It has chapters at 283 institutions and more than half a million members throughout the country. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression. Among its programs are academic and literary awards, lectureships, a fellowship, a professorship, and publication of The American Scholar, an award-winning quarterly journal. For more, see

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