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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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Next Event: 

"Climate Change, Justice, and Quality of Life: 
A Convenient Truth … and a Lesson from COVID-19?"

Railton_photo.jpgProfessor Peter Railton, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Gregory S. Kavka Distinguished University Professor and
John Stephenson Perrin Professor of Philosophy

Abstract: Justice would appear to require that those who are the principal beneficiaries of a history of economic and political behavior that has resulted in dramatic climate change, and whose societies have contributed most heavily to causing this change, should bear a correspondingly large share of the costs of contending with the problems such change is creating for populations worldwide.  At the same time, however, a prevalent material conception of happiness holds that this would require sacrificing the “quality of life” enjoyed in the most-developed countries.  Such sacrifice seems unlikely to achieve sufficient social and political support in these countries.  However, there are good reasons for doubting the material conception of “quality of life”.  A large body of social science research into the nature and sources of “subjective well-being”—a measure of how people experience and evaluate their lives—suggests that more sustainable levels of resource utilization and greater equity in distribution could be achieved without great sacrifice to “quality of life” in the most-developed countries, and in ways that could significantly enhance subjective well-being in the less-developed countries.  This I call a “convenient truth”.  The varied social responses to the COVID-19 pandemic suggest this as well:  there can be wide differences in outcomes in terms of well-being and justice that are not simply a function of a society’s material wealth, and where significant gains can be achieved without significant sacrifice to quality of life. 

November 19, 2020
4:00-6:00 PM, PST
Virtual Lecture via Zoom.
Please RSVP to receive the link:



Past Events:


"CRISPR and the World: Little Worry, Too Much Worry, and Not Enough Worry"     JUNE 4, 2020

Henry T. (Hank) Greely -  Dean F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and, Professor, by courtesy, of Genetics Stanford Law School


"Selves Like Us"     November 14, 2019

Susan R. Wolf -  Professor of Moral Philosophy and Philosopher of Action, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


"Immigration and Morality: Invitation to a Dialogue"      April 11, 2019

Joseph Carens. Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto


"Condemned to Tribalism? Us Versus Them in Contemporary America"     November 15, 2018

Allen Buchanan. 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


"#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


“Effective Altruism”     February 25, 2014

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


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

Philip Kitcher. Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia 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.

Ethics in the Public Sphere archive