Ethics in the Public Sphere Lecture Series

Ethics in the Public Sphere

Exploring the ethical challenges facing contemporary society, UC San Diego’s Department of Philosophy is bringing relevant and timely topics to the forefront for greater understanding and discussion. Ethics in the Public Sphere (EPS) was established in 2012 as a forum to bring to light the discussions and debates where ethics and public life intersect. EPS has since become a distinguished lecture series.

Read more about the series here:
Interview with former Philosophy Department Chair, Donald P. Rutherford

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"Condemned to Tribalism? Us Versus Them in Contemporary America" 

Allen Buchanan. Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and also professor of the Philosophy of International Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College, London


Many people are aware that in the U.S. at present there is an increase in “tribalism” but there is much unclarity about what “tribalism” is. In this presentation I contrast tribalistic or exclusive moralities with inclusive ones. I first argue that the standard evolutionary story about how human morality originated among our remote ancestors between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago suggests to many people that we are condemned to tribalism, that humans are “hard-wired” by evolution to have exclusive moralities, moralities that relegate “outgroup” people to an inferior status. I then argue for a revisionist account of the evolutionary origins of morality according to which humans have an adaptively plastic moral capacity: in certain environments tribalistic or exclusive moral responses will dominate, but in different environments a more inclusive moral orientation is possible. I explain how morality, for many people, has become more inclusive during the last 300 years, in some parts of the world, but argue that there is a new form of tribalism: intrasocietal tribalism, where the inferior, dangerous other is not thought of as a member of another society, but rather is a group within our society. I next show that this new form of tribalism threatens to undue the recent progress that some humans have made in developing a more inclusive moral orientation. I then explain how ideology, properly understood, creates this new kind of tribalism and who that ideology is an adaptation for cooperation in modern, complex societies in which there is a plurality of groups competing for economic, political, and cultural dominance.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

UC San Diego Huerta-Vera Cruz Room, 4-7PM
Free Event: Talk, Q&A, and Reception
Please visit this registration page to RSVP.

Future Event:

April 11, 2019
Joseph Carens. Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

Past Events: 

"#metoo and the Failure to Warn Others"    May 24, 2018

Elizabeth Harman. Associate Professor of Philosophy and Human Values, Princeton University

“The Roads To and From the Paris Climate Agreement”     December 1, 2017

Andrew Light. University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy and Atmospheric Sciences, George Mason University; Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program, World Resources Institute 

“Death Squads and Death Lists: Targeted Killing and the Character of the State”     May 4, 2017

Jeremy Waldron. University Professor and Professor of Law, New York University; former Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, Oxford



“The Shape of the State”     October 27, 2016

Philip Pettit. L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University


“Consciousness Unbound: The Ethics of Neuroimaging After Severe Brain Injury”     April 29, 2015

Charles Weijer, M.D., Ph.D. Professor Philosophy, University of Western Ontario


“Can We Sustain Democracy and the Planet Too?”     March 12, 2014

Philip Kitcher. Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University


“Effective Altruism”     February 25, 2014

Peter Singer. Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University


“The Aims of Education” Panel     April 20, 2013

“Revising the Aims of Education”, Michael Tiboris, UC San Diego

“Molding Conscientious, Hard-Working, and Perseverant Students”, Jennifer Morton, Professor of Philosophy, The City College of New York

“Education in Human Values: Are There Standards of Humanity and Ethics in Education and Teacher Preparation?”, John Johnson, Professor of Education, San Diego State University

“Making Meaning Out of the School Day”, Dan Lang, Head of Francis Parker Middle School

“High Commitment Charter Schools and Principles of Educational Justice”, Gina Schouten, Professor of Philosophy, Illinois State University


“War Ethics” Panel    March 1-2, 2013

Helen Frowe, University of Kent; Commentator: David Reed Mapel, University of Colorado-Boulder

Adil Ahmad Haque, Rutgers School of Law; Commentator: François Tanguay-Renaud,Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Seth Lazar, Australian National University; Commentator: Saba Bazargan, UC San Diego

Larry May, Vanderbilt University and Law School; Commentator: Kai Draper, University of Delaware

Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University; Commentator: Richard Arneson, UC San Diego

David Rodin, Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict, Oxford University; Commentator: Mattias Iser, Goethe University, Frankfurt

Nancy Sherman, Georgetown University; Commentator: Bradley Strawser, US Naval Postgraduate School

Victor Tadros, University of Warwick School of Law; Commentator: Dana Nelkin, UC San Diego


“Our Duties to Distant Needy Persons”     November 3, 2012

“Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life”, Aaron James, Professor of Philosophy, UC Irvine. Commentator: Richard Arneson, Professor of Philosophy, UC San Diego.

“Reconsidering Singer’s Drowning Child Example”, Douglas Portmore, Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University. Commentator: K. Violet McKeon, UC Irvine.

To see our past events and video record of events please visit our Ethics in the Public Sphere archive.