Humanities and Arts

Contact Information

Salisbury Laboratories, 108
Phone: +1-508-831-5214
Fax: +1-508-831-5932

Ruth Lynette Smith

Ruth Smith works in the Philosophy and Religion group in the Humanities and Arts Department at WPI, and is also affiliated with Rhetoric and Writing programs. Interests in linguistics have shaped her attention to moral theories and practices as questions of grammar, taken as how we make ways around in the stream of life, yes, fragments of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Simone Weil.

Smith’s courses include Questions of Evil and Good, Rhetorical Theory, and Religions of the East. With close reading and wide discussion, she enjoys thinking with students about human action and awareness, encounters of religions and cultures, and social epistemics of rhetorical practices. Research interests in civil-linguistic agreement and disagreement have prompted student research seminars in identities and places, genocide and trials, law and moral conflict, values, and money.

Research Interests

  • Moral Grammars and Rubrics of Abstraction
  • Social Contracts and Civil Discourse Criteria
  • Constructions of Moral and Rhetorical Agency


  • BA, East Tennessee State University, Literature Major, Music Minor (organ), 1969
  • MA, Ohio University, Linguistics, 1971
  • MTS, Harvard Divinity School, Ethics and Theology, 1976
  • PhD, Boston University, Social Ethics, 1982

Featured Publications

  • “Morals and Their Ironies,” Journal of Religious Ethics. 26 (Fall 1998). Pp. 367-388.
  • “Order and Disorder: The Naturalization of Poverty,” Cultural Critique (Winter 1989-90), pp. 209-229.
  • “Negotiating Homes: Morality as a Scarce Good,” Cultural Critique, Winter 1999, pp.177-195.
  • “Rhetorics of Unity and Disunity: The Worcester Firefighters Memorial Service,” co-authored with John Trimbur, Rhetorical Studies Quarterly, 33 (October 2003). pp. 7-24.

View a Complete List (.pdf, 220kb)

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