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Department of Philosophy

Department of Philosophy, Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University Department of Philosophy

Program on Ethics and Public Life

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contact us at
(607) 255-8515



EPL inequality series posterclick on poster to go to series site


"Where is China Headed?"
Nearly Complete: A Major Migrant
Documentary Coming Soon

Where is China headed video seriesclick on poster to go to series site



The Cornell Program on Ethics and Public Life promotes interdisciplinary learning about morally central questions concerning public policies and social, political, and economic processes. Here are some of our activities, with links to further information.

Semester series. "Inequalities: How Deep? Why? What Should Be Done?" in the Spring semester of 2016 is the latest  semester-long series that EPL has organized in which distinguished visitors address diverse aspects of a topic of vital ethical and political importance. It will include public lectures on Mondays, 4:30-6:00 in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith, by Benjamin Page (Political Science, Northwestern) on political inequality (February 8), Miles Corak (Economics, Ottawa) on unequal opportunity (February 22), David Grusky (Sociology, Stanford) on limits to competition and the growth of inequality (February 29), Prudence Carter (Education, Stanford) on racial inequality (March 14), Cecilia Rouse (Economics, Princeton) on educational inequality (April 11), and Karl Alexander (Sociology, Johns Hopkins) on the interaction of family, school, and society in shaping inequality (April 25). A schedule, with further information about visitors, which will include postings of videos of lectures, is available here.

Workshops and extensive informal get-togethers in these visits will also advance social scientific and ethical inquiry. 

In the previous lecture series, "After the American Century: Fears and Hopes for America's Future," Thomas Mann (Brookings Institution), Marilyn Young (History, NYU), Richard Freeman (Economics, Harvard), Daniel Rodgers (History, Princeton), Lisa Lynch (Economics, Brandeis), and Ellis Goldberg (Political Science, University of Washington) addressed widely prevalent worries that the new normal condition of the United States stifles important aspirations that were viable in the past. Other series topics have been "Deep Issues of the 2012 Elections: Equality, Liberty and Democracy" (with Jacob Hacker, Larry Bartels, David Schmidtz, Harry Brighouse, Doug McAdam, and Hilary Hoynes) and "The Politics and Ethics of the Rise of China" (with Justin Lin, Wang Shaoguang, Joseph Chan, Wang Jisi, Rosemary Foot and David Kang). An archive of videos of the public lectures in all three series is available here.

Free Online videos by EPL, "Where is China Headed?". Beginning an innovative online presence, the Program on Ethics and Public Life has created "Where Is China Headed?", a free online series on facts and controversies with leading China scholars. "Tiananmen 1989 in Depth" is a stirring, richly informative documentary, including a recording made in the Square throughout the crackdown of June 4. "It made me cry and made me envy the students," one Cornell student from China wrote.  In "Demystifying China's Governance," Cornell's Andrew Mertha describes how China's vast, fragmented yet centralized apparatus works. In "China's Economic Rise and Economic Crossroads," Cornell's Eli Friedman analyzes China's economic rise and current economic challenges, an analysis supplemented by his video on the 2014 Yue Yuen strike. In four videos on "Judging China's Governance" group, leading scholars from Cornell, Harvard, UCLA and Middlebury advocate their diverse assessments of one-party rule and of what some regard as seeds of grassroots democracy in China today, others sources of corruption. The series will conclude with a powerful documentary of the experiences and reflections of migrant workers and those remaining in their home village, "The Two Worlds of Mr. Chen."  All videos are described in detail and are posted on release at

Initiatives in undergraduate education. The Law and Society Minor, open to all undergraduates, provides an opportunity for focused study of law and society from an interdisciplinary perspective. EPL-affiliated faculty and post-doctoral fellows teach a wide array of courses in ethics, social and political philosophy and the philosophy of law, including topics in international justice, biomedical ethics and environmental ethics.

Student awards. Our awards include the Neil Lubow Memorial Essay Prize, awarded each semester to an outstanding essay in ethics or ethical aspects of public policy in a Cornell writing course, and the Robert A. Hatfield Award supporting students in research on ethics in business.

If you would like to receive e-mail listserve event notifications, please contact the EPL Administrative Assistant, Margaret Nichols, at or (607) 255-8515.