University renames chair of philosophy following £ 2.8million donation

Oxford University has renamed a prestigious chair of philosophy following a £ 2.8million donation from the Sekyra Foundation.

The chair, originally titled The White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy, is now known as The Sekyra and White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy. The donors, the Sekyra Foundation, revealed in a statement that they donated to “discover deeper levels of reality” using philosophy.

The chair is the oldest university chair of philosophy at Oxford, having been first established in 1621. Originally named after Thomas White, Canon of Christ Church, those who hold the role lead the study of moral philosophy at the University from a scholarship attached to Corpus College Christi. The Foundation’s support will ensure the long-term viability of the Chair, as there was no stable funding source for the role prior to the support of the Sekyra Organization.

The president and founder of the organization, Luděk Sekyra, is a member of the board of trustees of Harris Manchester College. In a statement, he described the “challenges” of “how to live a good life, what constitutes moral progress and what is our responsibility to future generations” as prompting him to make the donation.

The current chair, Professor Jeff McMahan, said he was delighted with the donation. In a statement, he praised the measures taken to make the chair “secure for the future”. McMahan specializes in moral issues at the forefront of public consciousness: exploring the topics of war, abortion, and mankind’s treatment of animals.

Former chairholders have taken into account climate change, drug addiction, gambling and film censorship. They continue to lead philosophical debates to this day and have been described by Professor Chris Timpson, Chairman of the Philosophy Faculty Council, as having “fueled revolutions in our philosophical and moral understanding”.

The Sekyra organization has a long history of supporting the study of philosophy, both in Oxford and in their home region, Prague. The organization also supports a travel grant for Oxford students to visit and study in Prague. They also support the study of philosophy around the world: by cooperating with Harvard University, the Athens Democracy Forum and various Czech libraries, research organizations and human rights awards. The organization seeks to advance the development of critical and philosophical thinking internationally, in particular by promoting intergenerational dialogue to do so.

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