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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



MOOC poster  
image by Giulia Forsythe


On February 3, 2014, Cornell's Ad Hoc Distance Learning Committee, in which EPL Director Dick Miller played an active role, released its report on the benefits, costs, and potential drawbacks of the diverse forms of online distance learning, including Massive Open Online Courses. In addition to making recommendations for policies at Cornell, the report presents evidence, important considerations and unresolved controversies concerning large questions about distance learning that are topics of national discussion. The report is available here.


Daniel ManneDaniel Manne (LL.M.,
Harvard; J.D, Boston
University) has joined
EPL as a Post-Doctoral
Fellow. He comes to
us from the Harvard Kennedy
School of Government,
he was a Fellow at the Women and
Public Policy Program, working on
legal, social and ethical aspects of
domestic violence. In addition to his
research on this and other aspects of
ethics, law and public policy, he will
be teaching courses on law, society,
and morality.



white-boxThe 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.

New online initiative. EPL is engaged in creating the first in a series of online distance learning modules, which will be freely available to people interested in information, analysis, and deeply informed debate on leading public issues and to teachers, as a resource for courses. Visually engaging and richly informed, they will include presentations by leading scholars at Cornell and elsewhere, providing both background and critical encounters between their contrasting views, along with documentary footage. The first module will be "Where is China Headed?", for release around December 2014.

Semester series. EPL organizes semester-long series in which distinguished visitors address diverse aspects of a topic of vital ethical and political importance. This past Fall's topic was "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. In Fall 2012, Jacob Hacker (Political Science, Yale), Larry Bartels (Political Science, Vanderbilt), David Schmidtz (Philosophy, Arizona), Harry Brighouse (Philosophy, Wisconsin-Madison), Doug McAdam (Sociology, Stanford), and Hilary Hoynes (Economics, UC Davis) addressed the deep issues concerning economic inequality, liberty, and democracy raised by the 2012 presidential campaigns. In the spring 2012 series, David Kang (International relations, USC), Justin Yifu Lin (Chief Economist, World Bank), Rosemary Foot (International Relations, Oxford), Joseph Chan (Politics, University of Hong Kong), Wang Shaoguang (Government, Chinese University of Hong Kong), and Wang Jisi (International Studies, Peking University) discussed the politics and ethics of the rise of China. An archive of videos of the public lectures in all three series is available here.

Conferences, workshops and seminars in which visitors and Cornell faculty and graduate students share their current research. For example, major figures in ethics and its history came to discuss the diverse, fundamental topics of the work of Barbara Herman in a conference in September 2011.

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.

Public lectures. EPL organizes and co-sponsors public lectures on leading issues of ethical and political concern.

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