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Graduate Ethics

Graduate Student Fellowships

The application period for 2015-16 Graduate Fellowships is now closed. Please check back in spring quarter 2016 for information about 2016-17 Fellowship opportunities. 

2015-16 Graduate Student Fellows

In 2015-2016, The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society will be offering 10 graduate fellowships. These fellowships, which are open to graduate students from across the university, are organized around the theme of ‘ethical frictions.’ We will bring faculty and students from different disciplines into conversation about ethical questions that arise in non-ideal conditions, such as situations that involve institutional and social constraints or people who behave unethically.

These questions include:

  • What are the ethical limits of markets as a mechanism for distributing important social goods?
  • How do recent psychological advances in our understanding of moral judgment and behavior recast age-old questions about ethics?
  • How should risk be factored into our judgments about what to do?
  • How should policy-makers deal with the fact of disagreement?
  • Am I obligated to do the right thing (e.g., minimize energy consumption) even when my individual action will make no difference?

We will explore such questions through classes that focus on conflicting answers to them. By focusing on frictions that arise when we examine these questions in specific contexts – when ethical questions need to be considered in dialogue with empirical evidence, uncertainty, and human frailty – these classes will expose students to a wider range of perspectives and methodologies for thinking about ethical issues than they might otherwise encounter.

Program Structure

Selected fellows will take at least one of the two frictions seminars offered in Winter quarter. The fellows will also enroll in a spring seminar with Pam Karlan (Law).

In addition to the two seminars, all fellows will attend monthly dinners with the teaching faculty, visiting speakers, and other fellows. These dinners will provide students a forum for continuing conversations from the seminars and for building a sense of cohort. During the Spring quarter, fellows will also meet to share their work with each other (schedule TBD; we will aim for two meetings per month). 

We plan to select up to 10 fellows. Fellows will receive a stipend of $1000 per quarter for the three quarters. 

Class meeting times and a description of Pam Karlan's spring seminar are forthcoming.

Winter Seminars

Fellows will choose between the following two Winter seminars:

1.  ETHICSOC 374R/PHIL 374F: Science, Religion, and Democracy, Michael Friedman (Philosophy) and Avishai Margalit (Law, Philosophy) 

How should modern liberal democracies handle conflicts between science-based and religion-based beliefs among citizens?  Are religion-based beliefs as suitable for discussion within what Rawls calls “public reason” as science-based beliefs? Readings from, among others, Kitcher, Rawls, Spinoza, Taylor, and Wittgenstein.

2.  ETHICSOC 371R/PHIL 371D/POLISCI 431L: Inequality: Economic and Philosophical Perspectives, Debra Satz (Philosophy) and Ken Arrow (Economics)

The nature of and problem of inequality is central to both economics and philosophy.  Economists study the causes of inequality, design tools to measure it and track it over time, and examine its consequences.  Philosophers are centrally concerned with the justification of inequality and the reasons why various types of inequality are or are not objectionable.

In this class we bring both of these approaches together. Our class explores the different meanings of and measurements for understanding inequality, our best understandings of how much inequality there is, its causes, its consequences, and whether we ought to reduce it, and if so, how.

This is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar. We presume some familiarity with basic ideas in economics and basic ideas in contemporary political philosophy; we will explain and learn about more complex ideas as we proceed. The class will be capped at 20 students.

Spring Seminar

ETHICSOC 301/LAW 684: Conflicts, Ethics, and the Academy, Pam Karlan (Law)

This course looks at conflicts of interest and ethical issues as they arise within academic work. The participants will be drawn from schools and departments across the University so that the discussion will prompt different examples of, and perspectives on, the issues we discuss.

Topics will include the conflicts that arise from sponsored research, including choices of topics, shaping of conclusions, and nondisclosure agreements; issues of informed consent with respect to human subjects research, and the special issues raised by research conducted outside the United States; peer review, co-authorship, and other policies connected to scholarly publication; and the ethics of the classroom and conflicts of interest implicating professor-student relationships.

Representative readings will include Marcia Angell's work, Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption, N.Y. Rev. Books, Jan. 15, 2009, and Is Academic Medicine for Sale? 342 N. Engl. J. Med. 1516 (2000) (and responses); William R. Freudenburg, Seeding Science, Courting Conclusions: Reexamining the Intersection of Science, Corporate Cash, and the Law, 20 Sociological Forum 3 (2005); Max Weber, Science as a Vocation; legal cases; and conflict-of-interest policies adopted by various universities and professional organizations.  

The course will include an informal dinner at the end of each session. The goal of the course is to have students across disciplines think about the ethical issues they will confront in an academic or research career. Non-law students should enroll in ETHICSOC 301.

Faculty Bios

Debra Satz is the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Philosophy and Senior Associate Dean of the Humanities and Arts. Her recent books include “Why Some Things Should Not be for Sale” (Oxford, 2010) and co-editor, “Occupy the Future” (MIT Press, 2013). 

Ken Arrow is the Joan Kenney Professor of Economics and Professor of Operations Research, emeritus. He is a Nobel Prize-winning economist whose work has been primarily in economic theory and operations, focusing on areas including social choice theory, risk bearing, medical economics, general equilibrium analysis, inventory theory, and the economics of information and innovation.

Michael Friedman is the Co-Chair of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, the Frederick P. Rehmus Family Professor of Humanities, and the Director of the Patrick Suppes Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science and Technology. Friedman’s areas of interest include Kant, philosophy of science, and the history of twentieth century philosophy.

Avishai Margalit is the Schulman Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research interests include philosophy of language, rationality and social philosophy, and his recent publications include “Public International Law in the Asymmetric War or How Does One” (2009), “Liberalism and the Right to Culture” (2004), and “Occidentalism, or Hatred Towards the West“ (2002).

Pam Karlan is the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. She is one of the nation’s leading experts on voting and the political process, and she has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission and as an assistant counsel and former cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She is the co-author of leading casebooks on constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and the law of democracy, as well as numerous scholarly articles.

Application Process

The fellowship is open to graduate students from across the university. A complete application includes:

  • Indication of which winter seminar you want to take
  • Short response (500 words total) to the questions: Why do you want to participate in this program and how will it advance your work? What would you bring to the fellowship cohort?
  • CV
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Name of a faculty reference

Please email the application materials as a single PDF to Joan Berry ( by Monday June 22. In the subject line, please enter ‘Ethics Graduate Fellowship application.’