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Ryan Pollock wins Alumni Dissertation Award

Ryan Pollock, a sixth year graduate student in the department of philosophy, was recently awarded the Alumni Association Dissertation Award. The university wide award, which is accompanied by a generous endowment by the Alumni Association, recognizes “outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment” by a doctoral student who is in his or her final year of study.

His dissertation, entitled “The Party of Humankind”: Sociality and Moral Revision in David Hume, defends Hume’s sentimentalist moral theory from the charge that it is incapable of critiquing status quo moral attitudes (even when those attitudes seemingly arise from unreflective prejudice or bias). Ryan argues that Hume believes we should revise our “catalogue of virtues” (or the set of character traits that we find praiseworthy) when that catalogue fails to represent what we find best about human nature. Specifically, the need for revision is present when our feelings of moral approval and disapproval are not the product of human sociability or the aspects of our nature which drive us to connect with others. He contends that this account has significant ramifications for how we should view Hume’s explanation of moral judgment, his theory of justice, and forces us to reconsider the conservative aspects of Hume’s thought.

Ryan was also recognized for his teaching in 2014 when he received the Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award. This recognition is given out annually to the best graduate assistant teachers across all departments at Penn State. Having successfully defended his dissertation, Ryan intends to graduate this coming May.