May 11, 2024, 3:00 pm5:00 pm
Bowen Hall 222



Event Description

Please join us for a folk music event in honor of philosophy Professor Michael Smith, who will be retiring from Princeton at the end of this calendar year!

Born and raised in Australia, Michael Smith studied philosophy at Monash University (1972-1979), and then became an English and Politics teacher at Melbourne Boys High School (1980-1981). The award of a Commonwealth Overseas Scholarship enabled him to continue his studies at Oxford University (1981-1984). While at Oxford, Smith read for the BPhil and DPhil in philosophy, working closely with R. M. Hare, Jennifer Hornsby, and Simon Blackburn. Blackburn supervised his DPhil thesis, so on Philosophy Tree his heritage traces back, via Blackburn, to Casmir Lewy, G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittengstein, and Bertrand Russell.

After a period as Stipendiary Lecturer at Wadham College during his final year at Oxford, Smith went on to teach philosophy at Monash University (1984-5), Princeton University (1985-9), and Monash University again (1989-94), before moving to a full-time research position in philosophy at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University (1995-2004). (The latter move occasioned his then-colleague at Monash, Richard Holton, to write some amusing doggerel for him.)

Appointed initially to a Senior Fellowship in RSSS, Smith became Professor of Philosophy at RSSS in 1997, and Head of the Division of Philosophy and Law at RSSS in 1998. He was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities in 1997, and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2000. In 2003, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and humanities in the study of philosophy.

In 2004, Smith returned to teach at Princeton, where he was named McCosh Professor of Philosophy in 2009, and served as Chair of the Department 2012-18. (You can find out a little about McCosh's own philosophical work by reading David Sanford's very funny introduction when Smith gave the Claire Miller Lecture at Chapel Hill in 2011. Whatever you make of his philosophical achievements, as Princeton’s eleventh president (1868-88) McCosh was a vocal critic of slavery and the Confederacy, so much so that he clashed with white southern students attending the college after the Civil War.) In 2023 Smith received Princeton's Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.

At Princeton, Smith is also Associated Faculty Member in the Department of Politics; a member of the Executive Committee of the University Center for Human Values 2004-present, serving as Acting Director of UCHV 2020-21; and a member of the Committee for Film Studies 2014-present, serving as Chair 2019-2021. Smith was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. In 2016 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award for the Faculty of Arts at Monash University where is currently Adjunct Professor in the Philosophy Department, a position he will occupy until the end of 2025.

Smith has been known to sing and play guitar at Philosophy Department parties, events elsewhere on the Princeton campus, and at various philosophy conferences. Here is a video of him singing and playing his wife's favorite song at Princeton's Reunions long weekend in 2015. This musical Reunions' event was organized by his colleague Robby George, with whom Smith has co-taught and played guitar for many years. Here is a video of them playing together. A video of him accompanying Nomy Arpaly can be seen here.