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Thu, 04 Mar


Online Seminar

Jonathan Wolff in Conversation with Donna Lyons at the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin

'Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry'

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Jonathan Wolff in Conversation with Donna Lyons at the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin

Time & Location

04 Mar 2021, 13:00 – 14:00 GMT

Online Seminar

About the event

Jonathan Wolff, Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, will speak about his new book, ‘Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry’ (Second Edition, Routledge 2019) on 4 March 2021. We are also glad to be joined by Adina Preda, Associate Professor in Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.

Date and time: 1-2pm, Thursday, 4 March 2021

Attendees can join the webinar directly via Zoom ( and the event will be simultaneously live-streamed on the Law School Facebook page ( This event is free of charge and open to all and there will be an opportunity for Q&A. The webinar can accommodate 100 attendees and participants will be admitted on a first come, first served basis. If the webinar fills to capacity, it will be possible to watch the Facebook Live Stream, and a recording will also be made available following the event. We look forward to seeing you there.

Jonathan Wolff is the Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy and Governing Body Fellow at Wolfson College. He was formerly Blavatnik Chair in Public Policy at the School, and before that Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Humanities at UCL. He is currently developing a new research programme on revitalising democracy and civil society, in accordance with the aims of the Alfred Landecker Professorship. His other current work largely concerns equality, disadvantage, social justice and poverty, as well as applied topics such as public safety, disability, gambling, and the regulation of recreational drugs, which he has discussed in his books Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge 2011) and The Human Right to Health (Norton 2012). His most recent book is An Introduction to Moral Philosophy (Norton 2018).  

Earlier works include Disadvantage (OUP 2007), with Avner de-Shalit; An Introduction to Political Philosophy (OUP, 1996, third edition 2016); Why Read Marx Today? (OUP 2002); and Robert Nozick (Polity 1991). He has had a long-standing interest in health and health promotion, including questions of justice in health care resource allocation, the social determinants of health, and incentives and health behaviour. He has been a member of the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, the Academy of Medical Science working party on Drug Futures, the Gambling Review Body, the Homicide Review Group, an external member of the Board of Science of the British Medical Association, and a Trustee of GambleAware. He writes a regular column on higher education for The Guardian.

About ‘Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry’:

Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry, second edition subjects important and controversial areas of public policy to philosophical scrutiny. Jonathan Wolff, a renowned philosopher and veteran of many public committees, introduces and assesses core problems and controversies in public policy from a philosophical standpoint. Each chapter focuses on an important area of public policy where there is considerable moral and political disagreement. Topics discussed include:

• Can we defend inflicting suffering on animals in scientific experiments for human benefit?

• What limits to gambling can be achieved through legislation?

• What assumptions underlie drug policy? Can we justify punishing those who engage in actions that harm only themselves?

• What is so bad about crime? What is the point of punishment?

Other chapters discuss health care, disability, safety, and the free market. Throughout the book, fundamental questions for both philosopher and policy maker recur: what are the best methods for connecting philosophy and public policy? Should thinking about public policy be guided by an ‘an ideal world’ or the world we live in now? If there are ‘knock down’ arguments in philosophy why are there none in public policy?

Revised throughout to reflect changes in policy and research, this second edition includes four new chapters, on risky new technologies, the future of work, poverty, and immigration.

Each chapter concludes with ‘Lessons for Philosophy’ making this book not only an ideal introduction for those coming to philosophy, ethics, or public policy for the first time, but also a vital resource for anyone grappling with the moral complexity underlying policy debates.

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