Philosophy professor wins fellowship

Chair of the philosophy department David DeGrazia won a $50,400 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities last month for his work examining ethical issues connected with human reproduction and genetics through moral philosophy.

With the grant, he will explore abortion and embryo research, decisions to have children with severe disabilities, the use of genetics to enhance human traits, and obligations to future generations.

DeGrazia said he knows of no other GW professor who has gotten the NEH fellowship twice – he previously received it during his 2003-2004 sabbatical leave. The fellowship is competitive and given to humanities professors to fund sabbatical research, the endowment’s Web site said.

DeGrazia’s project is due to be completed in 2011 and continues his work on biomedical ethics and medical health policy. In past books, he has examined the moral statuses and mental lives of non-human animals and the connections between personal identity and bioethics.

In his upcoming project, he will explore the ethical issues involved in genetics, policies affecting future generations, and creating or altering people through reproduction. This project will include a “host of ethical issues,” DeGrazia said in an e-mail.

“The intended result is an original, rigorously defended, synoptic view that addresses some deeply puzzling issue of what is sometimes called reprogenetics in a style both scholarly and accessible,” he said.

“I am not at all surprised to hear of the award,” said Robert Churchill, professor of philosophy. “DeGrazia is among the foremost American scholars in areas such as medical ethics, biomedical technology and medical health policy.”

DeGrazia’s accomplishments “exemplify the philosophy department’s commitment to excellence in research as well as teaching,” Churchill said.

Peter Caws, a University professor, said DeGrazia is notable because he balances research, teaching and being the chair of the department.

“We’re friends, we’re colleagues, and sometimes we argue about philosophy,” Caws said.

The main purpose of the grant is to allow DeGrazia to spend time on his book and take a full year off from day-to-day duties at the University, he said.

“The grant is allowing me to take an entire year off to write a book,” DeGrazia said. “I really enjoy working on books and it’s a nice feeling when you are done with one.”

In 2008, English professor Gil Harris received the same fellowship for his work at the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C.

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