The moral philosopher ponders why being happy and acting morally may not be enough to satisfy us. She believes we need a vocabulary of meaning in public discourse, and suggests we strive for vitality––not joy––in the face of uncertainty and suffering. 

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Susan R. Wolf, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Susan R. Wolf is the Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor 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”, Freedom Within Reason (Oxford, 1990), Meaning in Life and Why it Matters (Princeton, 2010), and The Variety of Values: Essays on Morality, Meaning, and Love (Oxford, 2015). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and to the American Philosophical Society in 2006, and was a Phi Beta Kappa Romanell Professor (2009-10) and the Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam (2018). In 2004-07 she was honored with the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities. 

About Key Conversations 


Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa is a podcast featuring in-depth conversations between Fred Lawrence, Secretary/CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. With a new episode released monthly, each podcast invites listeners to take a seat at the table to learn more about the featured Scholar's background, research, and how they have taken their respective paths to where they are now, and where they are headed. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.​

Our Host

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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