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Past Events

 Spring 2013

Inaugural Kissel Lecture in Ethics

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics presents the Inaugural Kissel Lecture in Ethics to be delivered by Michael Sandel (Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, Harvard University). Professor Sandel's lecture is titled, "The Perils of Thinking Like an Economist." 

February 07, 2013 @ 05:30 PM
Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall


Political Philosophy for 21st Century Europe

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics will be hosting a workshop with Philip Van Parijs, University of Louvain, Hoover Chair in Economic Social Ethics; Visiting Professor, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law; Fellow, Nuffield College.

Tuesday, January 22nd 2 pm – 4.30 pm: “What’s So New About the Eurocrisis?”

   Chair: T. M. Scanlon
   Presentation by Philippe van Parijs
   Comments by Dani Rodrik

Wednesday, January 23rd 2 pm – 4.30 pm: “Principles of Justice for the European Union: Two Views”

   Chair: Eric Beerbohm
   Presentation by Philippe van Parijs
   Comments by Charles Beitz, Lucas Stanczyk

Thursday, January 24th 2 pm – 4.30 pm: “Shaping Europe’s Destiny: Vision and Opportunities”

   Chair: Michael Rosen
   Presentation by Philippe van Parijs
   Comments by Glyn Morgan, Yascha Mounk


   Belfer Case Study Room
   CGIS South, S020
   1730 Cambridge Street
   Cambridge, MA

Registration: Since space is limited, free registration for this event is strongly encouraged. To register, please send an email with your name and institutional affiliation to
For more information:
Made possible by the generous support of The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, the Philosophy Department, the Government Departments, and the Center for European Studies

Fall 2012


Joseph Raz (Oxford University & Columbia Law School)
"Is there a Reason to Keep a Promise?"

Thursday, Nov 1, 4-6 P.M.
Emerson Hall



Moral Controversies and Public Policy Seminar

Professor Frances Kamm, Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy in the Kennedy School of Government and Professor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, is offering "Moral Controversies and Public Policy" during the Fall 2012 term. Students and faculty are welcomed to attend the presentations listed below. The seminar is held in Weil Seminar Room, first floor of Belfer Building at HKS, corner of 79 JFK Street and Eliot Street. Those who would like a copy of the readings should contact or

 Moral Controversies and Public Policy 

W 4:10-6  BL1
Prof. Frances Kamm  

The aim of this seminar course is both to engage in careful reasoning about morally controversial issues (such as assisted suicide, health care rights, torture, drugs) and to consider the construction of public policies to deal with such issues.  The course is what is known as a “colloquium class”: It involves presenters who have strong backgrounds in philosophy or political theory and are also involved in advocating or constructing public policies as members of, or advisors to, governments. The readings they have sent must be read in advance. At the session they offer a short summary of their views and are questioned by regstered students and other students and faculty who may attend presenters’ sessions. Some weeks only the registered students will meet with Prof. Kamm. The seminar will meet once a week.  

 Nov 28: William Galston, Targeted Killing and Drones


Dec 5: Avishai Margalit, Compromise and the Arab-Israeli Conflict


  • Margalit Avishai, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, Chapter 3. Optional: Chapter 1 & 2.

 Spring 2012

John Jost (New York University)
"Law & Mind: A System Justification Perspective on Social Stratification and Inequality"

Monday, February 6, 12:00pm
WCC 1023, Harvard Law School

NYU Psychology Professor John Jost will present his work on system justification theory, which addresses the holding of attitudes that are often contrary to one's own self-interest and therefore contrary to what one would expect on the basis of theories of self-enhancement or rational self-interest. His research focuses on counter-intuitive outcomes, such as the internalization of unfavorable stereotypes about one's own group, nonconscious biases that perpetuate inequality, attitudinal ambivalence directed at fellow ingroup members who challenge the system, opposition to equality among members of disadvantaged groups, rationalization of anticipated social and political outcomes, and tendencies among members of powerless groups to subjectively enhance the legitimacy of their powerlessness and, in some cases, to show greater support for the system than do members of powerful groups.

Jost’s current work also explores the underlying cognitive and motivational differences between liberals and conservatives, focusing on whether certain situational factors (such as those pertaining to stability and threat) are capable of bringing about change in the endorsement of political attitudes.

Symposium in Honor of Professor Frank Michelman

Friday, February 10, 5-7pm (cocktail reception and dinner will follow)
WCC 2036 Milstein East Rooms ABC, Harvard Law School

Saturday, February 11, 9:30-11am
WCC 2036 Milstein East Rooms B & C, Harvard Law School

 RSVP to Amy Hilton ( or 617-384-9263)

Dean Minow invites you to attend the symposium in honor of Professor Frank Michelman she is hosting to celebrate his 49 years of service to the HLS community on the occasion of his retirement.

The conference will begin on Friday, February 10th with a panel discussion on comparative constitutional law from 5-7pm.  Cocktails will begin immediately following the panel discussion, and will be held in the Wasserstein Caspersen Student Center Milstein 2036 East Room A.  Dinner will follow in Milstein 2019 West Rooms A and B.  Special music during dinner will be provided by Professors Joseph Singer, Maria Glover, and Michael Coenen.  

The symposium will continue on Saturday, 2/11 with a panel discussion on law and philosophy from 9:30-11:30am.  A continental breakfast will be provided for all symposium attendees on Saturday, 2/11.  Both panel discussions will be held in WCC 2036 Milstein East Rooms B and C.

We hope you are able to attend this special event, and please RSVP to Amy Hilton ( or 617-384-9263) at your earliest convenience.

Symposium guests who will speak on the panel discussions are as follows:

  • Rosalie Abella, Justice, Supreme Court of Canada
  • Guido Calabresi, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • Arthur Chaskalson, Former Chief Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa
  • Dennis Davis, Honorable Professor of Law, The University of Cape Town; Judge of the High Court of Cape Town
  • Rosalind Dixon, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
  • Charles Fried, Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Dieter Grimm, Professor of Law, Humboldt University of Berlin, Permanent Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study
  • Karl Klare, George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews, Distinguished University Professor, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winner, former NYTimes Columnist
  • Margaret Marshall, Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School; former Chief Justice, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
  • Sandile Ngcobo, former Chief Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa
  • Vlad Perju, Associate Professor of Law, Boston College Law School
  • Robert Post, Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Margaret Jane Radin, Henry King Ransom Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
  • Nancy Rosenblum, Senator Joseph S. Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government, Harvard University
  • Michael Sandel, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, Harvard University
  • Thomas Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity, Harvard University
  • Andre Van der Walt, Professor of Law and South African Research Chair in Property Law, Stellenbosch University
  • Katharine Young, Senior Lecturer, Australian National University College of Law


Mark Greenberg (UCLA)
"Beyond the Standard Picture"

Wednesday, March 7, 4-6pm
Emerson 210

Abstract: In this paper, I sketch what I will call a theory of law. It is uncontroversial that the facts about what the content of the law is in a given jurisdiction - i.e., the facts about the legal obligations, powers, privileges, and so on - are not among the ultimate facts of the universe. Rather, we can explain why those facts obtain in terms of more basic facts. A theory of law is such a constitutive explanation of the content of the law. I have elsewhere articulated and criticized a vague picture of law - I hesitate to call it a theory - that is widely implicitly assumed though rarely defended. According to this Standard Picture, the content of the law is simply the linguistic content of authoritative legal pronouncements. My project in this paper is to offer a theory of law that rejects the Standard Picture. Legal institutions take various kinds of actions, such as voting on bills and deciding cases, that change our moral obligations, powers, and so on - our moral profile. My theory holds, very roughly, that the resulting moral obligations are legal obligations. I give many examples of ways in which legal institutions change the relevant circumstances, thereby changing the moral profile. For example, by protecting people from violence and punishing wrongdoers, a legal system can make it morally impermissible for people to use violence except in a very narrow range of circumstances. Differently, by making a particular solution to a coordination problem salient, a legislature can make that solution obligatory. According to my theory, it is *not* that a legal authority, such as a legislature or court, pronounces a norm, which thereby becomes a valid legal norm, and then that legal norm, because of moral reasons for obeying the law, gives rise to a moral obligation. The direction of explanation is the other way around: the legislature votes or the court decides a case, thus altering the relevant circumstances in a way that changes the moral profile. The resulting part of the moral profile constitutes the content of the law.

"Repair, Not Retribution: Restorative Justice and the Law"

Wednesday, February 7, 7:30-9pm
Wasserstein 1019, Harvard Law School

As U.S. prison populations continue to grow and neighborhoods, schools, families, and communities feel the lasting impacts of crime, the restorative justice movement offers alternative responses to crime by seeking to repair the harm done rather than mandating retribution. Restorative justice, which can work both with and outside of the criminal justice system, invites those who are most affected by crime to participate more directly in responding to it and working to make things as right as possible. This panel features several lawyers who work in the restorative justice field and is an excellent opportunity to learn about restorative justice and its relationship to the law, as well as several alternative career options for those interested in criminal justice.


Sujatha Baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to victims and persons accused of crime. A former victim’s advocate and public defender, Sujatha was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2008 which she used to spearhead a successful restorative juvenile diversion program in Alameda County. As the former Director of Community Justice Works, she expanded and institutionalized the program she began through her Soros Fellowship. Sujatha has served as a consultant to the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, has taught Restorative Justice to undergraduates and law students, and is a frequent guest lecturer at academic institutions and conferences. Today, as a Senior Program Specialist at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Sujatha assists communities in implementing restorative justice alternatives to juvenile detention and zero-tolerance school discipline policies. She is also provides technical assistance to the US Attorney General’s Task Force on Childhood Exposure to Violence.

Sujatha earned her A.B. from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She had federal clerkships with the Honorable William K. Sessions, III, former Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and with the Honorable Martha Vázquez. An national voice in restorative justice, she was honored as Northeastern University Law School’s Daynard Fellow, and has been a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

Ora Schub of Chicago's Community Justice for Youth Institute is known for her work on domestic violence, disability rights, Palestinian solidarity work and human rights. She was formerly a clinical law professor at the Northwestern University School of Law Children and Family Justice Center. Ora also worked as a program director at Access Living, Cook County deputy public guardian and criminal defense attorney. Ora has traveled throughout the United States, Ecuador and Brazil speaking and sharing ideas on restoratives justice and teen dating violence. She has participated in several human rights delegations to the West Bank, Gaza, Kuwait and Lebanon as part of the National Lawyer's Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers delegations. She is a member of the Guild's LGBT taskforce.

Moderator: Professor Dan Kahan

Free non-pizza dinner!


Frances Kamm (Harvard)
Symposium: "Ethics for Enemies: Terror, Torture, and War"

Friday, May 4, 2012
Wasserstein Hall
1585 Massachusetts Ave
Milstein West A/B
Cambridge, MA

Please join us on Friday, May 4 at the Center for Ethics for a special symposium featuring Frances Kamm's book Ethics for Enemies: Terror, Torture, and War. A preliminary schedule and details can be found below. If you wish to attend, please RSVP via reply email by April 25 to Jennifer Campbell ( We hope to see you there!

Schedule of events:

9.30: Coffee & light breakfast

9.45: Welcome, and Introduction by Frances Kamm

10.30 - 12.30: Session 1: On Torture
Caspar Hare, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "Torture – Does Timing Matter?”
David Sussman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “Torture after the Fact: Does Ex Postness Matter?”

12.30-2.00: Lunch

2.00-4.00: Session 2: On Terror and War
Suzanne Uniacke, University of Hull: “Opportunistic (Im)Morality"
Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University: "Just Cause for War, Intention, and Proportionality"

4.00: Break

4.15-6.15: Session 3: On War
Thomas Hurka, University of Toronto, "Kamm on Intention and Permissibility"
John Goldberg and Gabriella Blum, Harvard University, "Intention, Morality and Law"

6.15-7:15: Reception for attendees in the Center


Fall 2011

Ernest J. Weinrib (University of Toronto)
"Unjust Enrichment"
Wednesday, November 9, 4-6pm
Emerson Hall 305, Harvard Yard

A reception will follow the talk.



"Unjust Enrichment" Abstract:
With the accelerating elaboration of its doctrine throughout the common law world, unjust enrichment has become a basis of liability that is in search of a theory of liability. In this talk, based on a chapter from my forthcoming book entitled Corrective Justice: Kantian Studies in Law, I present a corrective justice theory of unjust enrichment.

Download a copy of the paper (PDF)

Harvard Political Theory Colloquium
Featured speaker: Kinch Hoekstra (Berkeley/Princeton)

Thursday, November 17, 4:15pm

CGIS K401, 1737 Cambridge Street

Kinch Hoekstra specializes in the history of political, moral, and legal philosophy. He has written on ancient, renaissance, and early modern political thought. In particular, he has published a number of studies on aspects of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, including legal obligation, democracy, tyranny, mixed government, natural law, and the rationality of justice.  

Anita Hill (Brandeis University)
"In Search of a 21st Century Vision of Equality"

Thursday, November 17, 4:15pm

Radcliffe Institute, 10 Garden Street, Radcliffe Yard

Anita Hill, who became nationally known during Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, is a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University. In her new book, Reimagining Equality, she examines how “home” has figured in the imagination of individuals committed to gender and racial equality in the United States.


Melissa Lane (Princeton University)
"When the Experts are Uncertain: Scientific Knowledge and the Ethics of Democratic Judgment"

Thursday, December 01, 05:30 PM
Austin Hall, 100 North, Harvard Law School

Abstract: This paper explores the problem of the relation of democratic judgment to expert knowledge, focusing in particular on the case of scientific knowledge and the implications of its forms of uncertainty. It begins by broadly characterizing the problem of knowledge in political theory and in democratic theory in particular, drawing on the history of political thought – and in particular on democratic Athens and its philosophical critics – to do so. The model of popular judgment – and its relation to organized domains of expert knowledge – is elicited from this history as a promising lens for contemporary democratic theory. The paper then turns to the evaluation of the relation of democratic judgment to expert knowledge in a variety of modern disciplines, surveying certain positions in social epistemology and in social psychology. It identifies an excessive limitation to the question of identifying experts to whom to defer in the former literature, and an excessive tendency to manipulation in the question of how to correct for known biased heuristics in judgment in the latter (also indeed borrowed by the former). Both of these weaknesses will be exacerbated in the case of significant scientific uncertainty of certain kinds, as attends our current knowledge of the likely course of climatic change. As an alternative, the paper concludes by proposing a focus on enabling the public to engage in judging the broad outline of scientific claims, including an assessment of where uncertainties do and do not affect it and of what kinds. While this is a more demanding standard than deference and identification alone, it may also prove more robust.

Amartya Sen (Harvard University)
"Rights, Law, and Language"

Monday, December 5, 12:00pm

Hauser 105

Amartya Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University and was until recently the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  He has served as President of the Econometric Society, the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association.  Amartya Sen’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages, and include Choice of Techniques (1960), Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970), On Economic Inequality (1973, 1997), Poverty and Famines (1981), Choice, Welfare and Measurement (1982), Resources, Values and Development(1984), On Ethics and Economics (1987), The Standard of Living (1987), Inequality Reexamined (1992), Development as Freedom (1999), Rationality and Freedom (2002), The Argumentative Indian (2005), Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006), and The Idea of Justice (2009).  His research has ranged over a number of fields in economics, philosophy, and decision theory, including social choice theory, welfare economics, theory of measurement, development economics, public health, gender studies, moral and political philosophy, and the economics of peace and war.  Amartya Sen has received honorary doctorates from major universities in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.  He is a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Member of the American Philosophical Society.  Among the awards he has received are the “Bharat Ratna” (the highest honour awarded by the President of India); the Senator Giovanni Agnelli International Prize in Ethics; the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award; the Edinburgh Medal; the Brazilian Ordem do Merito Cientifico (Grã-Cruz); the Presidency of the Italian Republic Medal; the Eisenhower Medal; Honorary Companion of Honour (U.K.); The George E. Marshall Award, and the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Download a copy of the paper (PDF)

Last modified: October 29, 2013

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