Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy: George Mason University. The Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy brings philosophical analysis – the examination of values and the clarification of concepts – to the discussion of pressing issues in public policy.

Institute News and Events

symposium program coverBuilding Sustainability and Resilience
A Symposium with President Ángel Cabrera and Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward
May 19, 2014

President Ángel Cabrera invites you to attend the Symposium on Building Sustainability and Resilience.

As the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report confirms, the world is facing serious environmental challenges. Over the past several years, George Mason University has been investing significantly in a range of initiatives in the physical and social sciences and in innovative policy collaborations in order to position the university as a leader in creating solutions in support of a sustainable future. This event will showcase Mason’s expanded capacity for research and outreach in climate change response and resilience.

Our distinguished special guest will be Molly Ward, Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Featured Speakers

James Kinter (Director, Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies)
Andrew Light (U.S. Department of State and Director, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy)
Thomas Lovejoy (University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy)
Edward Maibach (Director, Center for Climate Change Communication)
Jagadish Shukla (Distinguished Professor of Climate Dynamics)
Gwynne Taraska (Interim Director, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy)



Values in Science and Science Policy
Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy
George Mason University
May 23 - 24, 2014

program coverJohnson Center, Room A

The workshop will focus on the role played by values — epistemic or otherwise — in scientific inquiry, and its implications for the manner in which science is used to inform policy and for the way in which science is funded and organized.

The workshop is organized by the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy in collaboration with the undergraduate Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at George Mason University. The workshop is free and open to the public. Each presentation lasts for one hour.

Questions can be directed to the organizer, Erik Angner, via email.

Preliminary program

Friday May 23

1:00 pm Andrew Light, George Mason University: TBA

2:00 pm Karen Kovaka, University of Pennsylvania: "Navigating the Tradeoff between Generality and Prediction in order to Bring Evolution in to Ecology"

3:30 pm David Morrow, University of Alabama at Birmingham: "Ethics and Policy for Dangerous Research"

4:30 pm Jonathan Moreno, University of Pennsylvania: "Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the 21st Century"

Saturday May 24

8:30 am JD Trout, Loyola University Chicago: "Democracy and Scientific Expertise"

9:30 am Chad Gonnerman, Michael O’Rourke & Daniel Steel, Michigan State University: "Philosophical Engagement with Scientists: Attitudes on Values in Science"

11:00am Wendy Parker, Durham University: "Values in Policy-Relevant Computational Modeling"

1:30 pm Liam Kofi Bright, Carnegie Mellon University: "Citizens Advisory Panels"

2:30 pm Chris DiTeresi, George Mason University: "Fruitfulness as Cultivation: Model Organisms and Values in Developmental Biology"

4:00 pm David Levy, George Mason University, & Sandra Peart, University of Richmond: "The Ethics Problem: Towards a Second-Best Solution to the Problem of Economic Expertise"

Eckenwiler Co-organizes Workshop on Counterterrorism, Ethics, and Global Health

Eckenwiler, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Professor of Health Administration Policy is co-organizing a workshop with Matthew Hunt, Assistant Professor in the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University, on Counterterrorism, Ethics, and Global Health.

The event is sponsored by the Brocher Foundation and will take place May 21-23, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The killing in Pakistan of polio vaccination workers serves as the most recent example of health-related moral hazards that can arise in the pursuit of national and global security objectives. The deaths have been attributed to the Taliban, acting against health workers who have come under suspicion in the wake of the U.S.-led capture and killing of Osama bin Ladin. The capture of bin Ladin was made possible in part through the involvement of a doctor and other health workers, operating under the guise of a vaccination program. The killings and the distrust of health workers and programs are, thus, in part attributable to the counter-terrorism strategies deployed by military personnel working alongside security agencies.

To take another example, the drones that fly over Waziristan and other Pakistani border areas have been shown to cause health consequences including anxiety and psychological trauma, physical injury, and death in civilian populations living below. The relationship between national security, foreign policy, and health has been explored in health diplomacy, aid and health, trade and health, infectious disease management, and health in conflict. However, research is needed on the ethical issues surrounding the global health impact of current counter-terrorism policy and practice. Given the ongoing nature of the ‘war on terror’, a dramatic escalation in the use of drones, and the demonstrated impact of these and other counter-terrorism strategies on the health of already vulnerable populations, on health and medical workers themselves, and on health and medical programs, a number of unexamined ethical issues and questions warrant urgent, careful attention.

This workshop aims to assemble a diverse set of participants with essential expertise to identify and map the ethical issues surrounding the global health impact of current counter-terrorism policy and practice.

February, 2014

Justin Wolfers lecture on the relationship between income and happiness

Johnson Center, A, February 18, 2014, 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM
Event details

January, 2014

"A Fair COP: Cooperating futures? Perspectives and priorities in climate negotiations"

A panel debate with Andrew Light and Jake Werksman (Principal Advisor, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission)
Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, January 14
Sponsored by the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy
Event details

January, 2014

The Institute sponsors a discussion with Peter Levine, January 22, 2014

Peter Levine discusses his new book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America, on active citizenship.
Busboys and Poets at 14th and V, January 22, 6:30 - 8:00
Event details

October, 2013

Andrew Light takes temporary leave to join the Obama Administration as climate change negotiator

Andrew Light, Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy, and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, is taking a temporary leave of absence to join the Obama administration as Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy on Climate Change in the Department of State. This appointment comes in recognition of Light's work on the front lines of international climate policy since coming to Mason from the University of Washington in 2008, especially in conjunction with his cooperative work with the Center for American Progress and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where he had been appointed a Senior Fellow. At the State Department, in addition to working on the primary UN climate negotiations, Light will take a leadership role on a variety of topics, including the U.S.-India bilateral relationship on climate change and clean energy, and efforts to reduce "super" climate pollutants, such as hydrofluorocarbons, methane, and black carbon. He will lead the office and serve as chief liaison to the Secretary of State and the White House when the Special Envoy is traveling. The leave will last one year, renewable for one additional year. During his absence Gwynne Taraska will serve as Interim Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy.

February, 2013

Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly launches an online submission, review, and publishing system

December, 2012

Gwynne Taraska, "Kyoto Negotiations Continue at the Doha Climate Talks," Center for American Progress

Andrew Light and Gwynne Taraska in Climate Progress, "Kabuki Theatre: Calls for US Negotiators to Leave Doha Are Unproductive and Inconsistent"

Andrew Light, Gwynne Taraska, et al., "Doha Summit Ends with the Long March to 2015," Center for American Progress

November, 2012

Andrew Light and Rebecca Lefton, "What to Expect in Doha: An Overview of the 2012 U.N. Climate Change Negotiations," Center for American Progress

September, 2012

Andrew Light testifies before US Congress on EPA's foreign grant recipients, September 2012.


June, 2012

Erik Angner in Politico: "Health Care Policy Libertarians Go For"

Andrew Light in The Hill: "Rio+20: How the Brazilians Can Save Themselves from Their Own Meeting"

Andrew Light and Gwynne Taraska on Rio+20 in Climate Progress:

As Disappointment Spreads At Rio+20, Will Public-Private Commitments Fill The Gap? by Gwynne Taraska and Stephen Lacey

UN’s Sustainable Energy For All Initiative Gets A Boost At Troubled Rio Summit, by Gwynne Taraska

How The Rio+20 Text Could Have Been Stronger, by Adam James, Andrew Light, and Gwynne Taraska

May, 2012

Angner cover

Erik Angner's new book, A Course in Behavioral Economics, is now available.
Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0230304540, May 22, 2012.


NY Times image

Andrew Light and Gwynne Taraska judge NY Times contest on the ethics of meat.
Kaminer, A. The meat you eat. The Ethicist, The New York Times. 6 May 2012.

April, 2012

Eckenwiler cover

Lisa Eckenwiler's new book, Long-term Care, Globalization, and Justice, is now available.
Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 1421405504, April 13, 2012.

February, 2012

John Podesta and Andrew Light in Politico: "New Global Deal on Climate Change"

Lisa Eckenwiler, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, has been selected to participate in Center for Humans and Nature's research project Frontiers of Ethics: Ethics of Care and Place.

December 29, 2011

From Philosophical Training to Professional Blogging: A Conversation with David Roberts (Grist), Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Beast), and Matthew Yglesias (Slate)

Special event at the Eastern APA
Washington, DC

Sponsored by the Committee on Public Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association and the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy


Some of the most talented professional bloggers in the U.S. have backgrounds in philosophy.  Is this just a coincidence or is there a causal relationship between philosophical training and the demands of professional blogging?   In addition to learning about the philosophical backgrounds and abiding interests of three of the most prominent bloggers in the U.S., we'll discuss how the emergence of this new journalistic medium could provide a new substantive professional venue for some of our most talented students and a significant outlet for public philosophy.


Andrew Sullivan is one of the world's most widely read bloggers.  He started blogging in 2000, moving to The in 2007 and then to The Daily Beast in April 2010.  Andrew earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from Harvard, winning the government dissertation prize.  He is the author of five books including Virtually Normal:  An Argument About Homosexuality; Intimations Pursued: The Voice of Practice in the Conversation of Michael Oakeshott; and The Conservative Soul:  Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right.  Read more of his work here,

Matthew Yglesias is the business and economics correspondent at Slate.  He was previously at Think Progress, The Atlantic, TPM Media, and The American Prospect.  His is the author of Heads in the Sand:  How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats, and the forthcoming The Rent Is Too Damn High.  Hailed by E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post as "one of the smartest voices in the blogosphere," Matt has a B.A. in philosophy from Harvard. Read more of his work here,

David Roberts is a Staff Writer at the environmental magazine Grist.  He received an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Montana and was well into a Ph.D. in philosophy on pragmatism and ethics at the University of Alberta before turning to a series of professional writing positions in the high tech sector in Seattle.  Since joining Grist in 2003, he has become one of the most prominent environmental journalists and opinion writers in America, coining the now ubiquitous term "Climate Hawk."  Read more of his work here,

Session organizer and chair,  Andrew Light, is Associate Director, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, George Mason University, and a Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Washington, D.C.

December 2011

UN Climate Change conference in Durban

Andrew Light returns from the UN Climate Change conference in Durban.

Interview on WNYC's The Takeaway >>

Panel discussion on KQED's Forum >>

November 2011

Mark Sagoff is named Senior Fellow of the Breakthrough Institute

The public policy think tank The Breakthrough Institute has announced Mark Sagoff as one of its six Senior Fellows of 2012, calling him, in its press release, "America's most trenchant environmental philosopher."


Conference Cover

October 6 - 8, 2011

Advancing Publicly Engaged Philosophy

Sponsored by the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy
Washington, DC

Full Program

PPN Logo

"Values and Public Life"
Opening Plenary, Center for American Progress


Andrew Light (George Mason University & Center for American Progress)


Hanna Rosin (The Atlantic & Slate)


Anita Allen (U. Pennsylvania & Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues)
EJ Dionne (The Washington Post & Brookings Institution)
William Galston (Brookings Institution)
Mark Sagoff (George Mason University)


January 2011

George Mason University charters the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to announce the chartering of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.  The institute, led by Mark Sagoff (Director) and Andrew Light (Associate Director), brings philosophical analysis – the examination of values and the clarification of concepts – to the discussion of pressing issues in public policy.  Institute members address moral, legal, and societal concerns that arise, for example, with emerging technologies, international development, and global demands for justice.  The concepts and values that frame arguments about public policy are often as important as the facts to which they respond.  Research at the institute will be conducted by resident scholars and interdisciplinary teams composed of historians, philosophers, political scientists, and sociologists at Mason and other institutions around the world.  The institute has recently brought two new faculty to Mason – Erik Angner, who has been Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Gwynne Taraska, who is a recent PhD graduate in philosophy from the University of Washington in Seattle.  The institute will publish Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly and, in conjunction with the University of Colorado, Ethics, Policy, and Environment.