Robert Merrihew Adams, Clark Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy Emeritus at Yale University and a visiting fellow and longtime friend of the Department of Philosophy, delivered the eighth biennial David K. Lewis Lecture earlier this month - 60 years after receiving his B.A. in philosophy from Princeton.
“I certainly owe my start in philosophy to Princeton University” Adams told the more than 100 webinar attendees. “And, frankly, in my philosophical character, I was actually more shaped by that preparation than by any other part of my formal education.”
Introducing the 2020 David Lewis Lecture, Department Chair Gideon Rosen highlighted similarities between this year’s speaker and the lecture's namesake. “David Lewis was a great philosophical generalist of sorts. Bob Adams is, likewise, a great philosophical generalist, though in some ways his sweep is even more impressive,” Rosen said. “Like David, Bob was a leading figure in the revival of modal metaphysics in the 1960s and 70s, with landmark essays on the nature of actuality and the metaphysics of possibility,” he continued. “Unlike David, Bob is also a maximally distinguished scholar of the history of philosophy, ethical theory and philosophical theology. It is to our great benefit that Bob has now returned to the place where it all began,” Rosen added.
In this year’s lecture, entitled “Things there are that don’t exist,” Adams argues against the historically prevalent opinion in analytic philosophy that denies there are any things that never exist – a view he admits to once sharing – and makes the case that “there are things that never exist and they play an important part in our mental life.”