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Raymond Angelo Belliotti Raymond Angelo Belliotti

SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy | SUNY Fredonia


Experienced, dynamic speaker who links philosophy with living a robustly meaningful life





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Raymond Angelo Belliotti is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He received his undergraduate degree from Union College in 1970, after which he was conscripted into the United States Army where he served three years in military intelligence units during the Vietnamese War. Upon his discharge, he enrolled at the University of Miami where he earned his Master of Arts degree in 1976 and Doctorate in 1977. After teaching stints at Florida International University and Virginia Commonwealth University, he entered Harvard University as a law student and teaching fellow. After receiving a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, he practiced law in New York City with the firm of Barrett Smith Schapiro Simon & Armstrong. In 1984, he joined the faculty at Fredonia.
Belliotti is the author of 15 books: Justifying Law (1992); Good Sex (1993); Seeking Identity (1995); Stalking Nietzsche (1998); What is the Meaning of Human Life? (2001); Happiness is Overrated (2004); The Philosophy of Baseball (2006); Watching Baseball Seeing Philosophy (2008); Niccolò Machiavelli (2008), Roman Philosophy and the Good Life (2009); Dante’s Deadly Sins: Moral Philosophy in Hell (2011); Posthumous Harm: Why the Dead are Still Vulnerable (2012); Shakespeare and Philosophy (2012); Jesus or Nietzsche: How Should We Live our Lives? (2013); and Jesus the Radical: The Parables and Modern Morality (2013). Good Sex was later translated into Korean and published in Asia. What is the Meaning of Human Life? was nominated for the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy’s Book of the Year Award. He has also published 70 articles and 25 reviews in the areas of ethics, jurisprudence, sexual morality, medicine, politics, education, feminism, sports, Marxism, and legal ethics. Belliotti has also made numerous presentations at philosophical conferences, including the 18th World Congress of Philosophy in England, and has been honored as a featured lecturer on the Queen Elizabeth-2 ocean liner.
Belliotti has been the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the William T. Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award, the Kasling Lecture Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship, and the SUNY Foundation Research & Scholarship Recognition Award. He is also a member of the New York State Speakers in the Humanities Program.

Industry Expertise (3)

Public Policy



Areas of Expertise (1)

Machiavelli and the Problem of Dirty Hands

Education (1)

See Below: Philosophy and Law 1970

EDUCATION: 1982 J.D. (cum laude), Harvard Law School 1977 Ph.D. (4.00 cum. GPA), University of Miami 1976 M.A. (4.00 cum. GPA), University of Miami 1970 B.A. (cum laude), Union College

Sample Talks (3)

Machiavelli and the Problem of Dirty Hands

In politics (and elsewhere), the best course of action sometimes involves doing something wrong. Chief Political Officers (CPOs) must violate well-established moral principles because of the demands of their position. The Paradox: How can a CPO be morally required to violate moral standards? The source of paradox: Stringent universal moral principles conflict with special moral duties to smaller, defined constituencies. The resulting act is experienced simultaneously as both required and prohibited. Machiavelli says: CPOs must learn “how not to be good.” They must “risk their souls” for their country. In Machiavelli’s view, excuses lessen but do not eliminate moral responsibility. In this talk, I unravel the paradox, explain and analyze Machiavelli’s view, and drawn out the implications for social life.

What is the Meaning of Life?

We dread questions about the meaning of life. We recognize that part of the human condition is that the questions most important to us - Why am I born to suffer and die? What, if anything, is my destiny? How did it all begin? How will it end? - evade incontestable answers and, instead, underscore the limitations of human reason. Seriously confronting such questions threatens our mundane lives. Yet, to avoid questions of ultimate meaning strikes us as cowardly and inauthentic. Living a fully human life involves struggling with crucial questions that elude simple answers. In this talk, Belliotti analyzes three answers to the meaning of life: the otherworldliness of the Religious Solution; the pessimism of Cosmic Meaninglessness; and the fragile optimism of The Creation of Contingent Meaning. Belliotti concludes that the meaning of life is best understood through two metaphors: telescopes, and slinky toys.

Why Happiness is Overrated

With the exception of love, no human experience is celebrated more than happiness. We pursue wealth, success, honor, relationships, education, and the like because we believe they will lead to our happiness. Parents often say that what they want most for their children is happiness. The intuition is clear: our accomplishments, careers, relationships, the potentials we realize, are hollow if they do not make us happy. However, throughout the history of philosophy, different definitions of “happiness,” explanations of appropriate recipes for attaining happiness, and accounts of why these recipes make human beings happy abound. Until we understand precisely what someone means by “happiness,” we cannot begin to answer the major questions: Is happiness attainable? If so, how might we attain it? How great a personal good is happiness? Are the best lives necessarily happy lives? Is happiness necessary for a good life, a meaningful life, a worthwhile life? Does it mater how we achieve happiness? In this talk, I discuss and reject the possibility that happiness is an illusion, a fruitless goal whose pursuit underscores the desperation of the human condition. I then explain and evaluate happiness understood as a predominantly positive state of mind. I argue that such happiness can sometimes be attained in uninspiring ways that demonstrate the sense in which happiness is overrated. I then sketch contemporary philosophical views of happiness, highlighting their strategies and shortcomings. Finally, I relate the pursuit of happiness to the search for meaning and value. I conclude that leading a robustly meaningful, valuable life merits worthwhile happiness. But worthwhile happiness does not automatically follow such a life. If we must choose, a robustly meaningful, valuable life is preferable to a merely happy life.



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