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By University of Arizona


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Bob Lusch. Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

The University of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, which offers students and researchers an opportunity to examine political philosophy in a variety of contexts, has received a $2.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

The gift to the center, part of the UA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will be used to help the center collaborate with the undergraduate degree program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law in hiring a postdoctoral fellow, as well as help the center build a network of philosophy, politics and economics — or PPE — programs spanning several universities and four continents. In the process, it will help create new hybrid online and traditional PPE degree programs, including a program in ethics, economy and entrepreneurship — designed for high school teachers — and six online courses geared toward undergraduates.

In addition, the gift from the Templeton Foundation will enable the center to expand its publishing program, including scholarly articles and books, and support its editorship of Social Philosophy and Policy, which has the highest circulation among Anglo-American philosophy journals in the Western world.

“The UA’s political philosophy program has been ranked No. 1 in the world for several years running, which is due in no small part to the strength of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom,” said John Paul Jones, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “This generous gift will not only benefit the center, it will also facilitate the exciting collaboration between the center and the UA’s top-ranked Eller College of Management and McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. These researchers’ efforts to reinvent their fields illustrate the UA’s continued leadership in interdisciplinary scholarship.”

“The philosophy program at the University of Arizona has a long history of excellence,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. “The gift from the Templeton Foundation will help us to advance this program even further by providing the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom with resources directed at the vital and timely endeavor of examining political philosophy. We very much appreciate this gift and are thankful for the Templeton Foundation’s generosity.”

 “Our aim is to recover a sense of what political philosophy and economics were before the two fields went their separate ways,” said David Schmidtz, the director of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. “Accordingly, we don’t treat philosophical theorizing about fairness and justice as a question of how to divide a pie whose size is given. We start with the fact that we live in a world where the pie is not a given, and serious questions of fairness are first of all questions about how to respect the contributions of those who produce the pie. That is a question of classical political economy rather than of philosophy more narrowly conceived.”

In addition to his role as director of the center, Schmidtz holds an appointment at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. Robert F. Lusch, the McGuire Center’s director and professor of marketing, has a reciprocal affiliation with the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. The two are collaborating to fulfill the grant requirements.

“This is an exciting opportunity for cross-campus partnership,” Lusch said. “David and I are already prototyping the K-12 program this spring with a group of teachers from South Sudan. We believe our program has the potential to expand beyond Arizona and North America.”

James H. Moore Jr., president and CEO of the UA Foundation, called the Templeton Foundation’s support of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom “a tremendous expression of confidence in the University of Arizona.”

“Private foundation support is essential to the UA and its commitment to stay at the leading edge of innovative and cross-disciplinary research,” Moore said. “This gift will also help expand the UA’s reach, a priority of the $1.5 billion Arizona NOW campaign. Research conducted by the center will not only impact UA students but educators, academics and students worldwide through online courses, conferences and networks.”

Launched publicly in April 2014, Arizona NOW will conclude in June 2018. The comprehensive fundraising campaign is distinguished by its unprecedented scope as well as its ties to Never Settle, the UA’s strategic plan. To date, the campaign is ahead of pace, with more than 70 percent of the goal already met. The vast majority of gifts are restricted, meaning that they can be used only for a specific purpose or project.

Based in Pennsylvania, the John Templeton Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians and between such experts and the public at large. As a pioneer in both financial investment and philanthropy, the late Sir John Templeton spent a lifetime encouraging open-mindedness. The motto for his foundation – “How little we know, how eager to learn” – exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

Top image by Paul O’Mara.