The Ethics Project

Past Events

March 2020 (Canceled due to COVID-19/Rescheduled):

 Photo Credit: Marco Verch


Fake News, Silenced Voices: Truth and Democracy at SXSW 2020

March 14th at 3:30PM - 4:30PM at the Fairmont (101 Red River)

The panelists are David McCraw, Deputy General Counsel at The New York Times and author of “The Truth in our Times,” and Vivian Schiller, a long time news media executive and is currently overseeing a program at the Aspen Institute.

This is a panel on technology and the pursuit of truth. Panelists cross the boundaries of old media and new media, technology, and law, examining how a democratic society can find real and sustaining solutions to the problem of fake news, weaponization of toxic speech, and partisan information silos, all without concentrating power in the hands of a few or damaging free expression. Social media has diminished traditional gatekeepers. The panel explores key tasks undone by the transformation: finding consensus, uncovering truth and falsity, setting boundaries on power. Technology can make democracy vibrant; it can also be a breeding ground for information chaos, abuses of power, and silencing of necessary voices. Which future we get depends on a confluence of law, ethics, and technology. This presentation will be introduced by The Ethics Project Industry Fellow Becky Taylor.

Primary Entry: Music Badge, Platinum Badge, Film Badge, Interactive Badge

Format: Presentation

Event Type: Session

Track: Media & Journalism

Level: Intermediate




Overdoing Democracy: The Problem of Political Polarization

Dr. Robert B. Talisse
W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy
Vanderbilt University

April 7, 2020 (Tuesday) ¦ 3:30PM-5:00PM ¦ BMC 5.208

Partisan polarization is tearing the country apart. Although common analyses recommend that the way to address polarization is to encourage citizens and politicians to “reach across the aisle,” data show that this strategy frequently backfires, escalating rather than easing partisan hostility.  Offering an alternative prescription, Talisse argues that polarization is a result of the near-total infiltration of political allegiances and identities into our social lives.  Today, our everyday activities are increasingly fused with our political profiles: commercial spaces, workplaces, professions, schools, churches, sports teams, and even public parks now tend to embody a particular political valence.  When politics is permitted to saturate our social environments, we impair the capacities we need in order to enact democracy well.  In a slogan, when we overdo democracy in this way, we undermine it.  The solution is to build venues and activities where people can engage in cooperative activities together in which their political identities are neither bolstered nor suppressed, but simply beside the point.  If we want to do democracy well, we need to put politics in its right place.

Dr. Robert B. Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. An internationally recognized theorist of democracy, Talisse has lectured throughout the world about democracy, moral disagreement, political polarization, and the ethics of citizenship. Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in its Place is his tenth book. Among the books he has authored are Why We Argue (And How We  Should) (with Scott Aikin), Democracy and Moral Conflict, A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, and Democracy After Liberalism.

Co-sponsored by the UT Austin Ethics Project. The Media Ethics Initiative is part of the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Media Ethics Initiative and Center for Media Engagement on Facebook for more information.

Media Ethics Initiative events are open and free to the public.


February 2020:

The 2020 Royal Ethics Conference

February 14th - February 15, 2020 (Friday & Saturday) ¦ 3:30PM ¦ WAG 316


November 2019:



Dr. Julia Driver

Professor of Philosophy, The University of Texas at Austin

November 12, 2019 (Tuesday) ¦ 3:30pm-5pm ¦ RLP 1.302E

One typical definition of "schadenfreude" is  “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.”  The word definitely picks out a distinctive moral emotion. In this paper, I set out to do four things.  My first aim in this paper is to provide an account of what schadenfreude is in such a way as to distinguish it from other moral emotions.  The second is to come up with success or aptness conditions for schadenfreude, and the third is to address the question that has preoccupied most recent philosophical literature on schadenfreude, "is it morally bad in some way to feel it?"  My answer to the later question is "it depends," but it depends on what position one takes on a substantive philosophical issue -- is a person's misfortune something that is always intrinsically bad? Lastly, I attempt to sketch a view in which moral emotions like schadenfreude can (but need not) can be more or less reasonable on the basis of coherence with other warranted emotions.

Julia Driver is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. She works in normative ethics, metaethics, moral psychology, and the history of Sentimentalism, especially with respect to the work of David Hume.  She is the author of three books: Uneasy Virtue, Ethics: the Fundamentals, and Consequentialism.  Her articles have appeared in journals such as the Journal of Philosophy, Nous, Philosophy & Phenomenological Research, Hypatia, Philosophy, Philosophical Studies, and the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.  She has received an NEH Fellowship, a Young Scholar's Award from Cornell's Program in Ethics and Public Life, a Laurence Rockefeller Fellowship at Princeton's Center for Human Values, a Visiting Fellowship from the Australian National University, an H.L.A. Hart Fellowship at Oxford University, and the Harsanyi Fellowship from the Australian National University.  She is currently Vice-President, and President-Elect, of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association.



8th Partners in Business Ethics Symposium

Hosted by the McCombs School of Business 

November 6-7, 2019 at the AT&T Education and Conference Center, 1900 University Ave., Austin TX 78705

About the Conference: This year’s theme is Leadership Ethics. Through keynote addresses, panel discussions, and audience participation, attendees will learn about the latest research on moral decision making, the best ideas for promulgating ethical cultures inside large organizations, the challenges of leading organizations in the “Me, Too” era, and other timely topics at the intersection of business and ethics.

Keynote Speakers:  Joanne Ciulla, Director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership, Rutgers University and Daron Roberts, Founding Director of UT’s Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation.

Participants:  Alicia White (Whole Foods Markets), Andrew Vo (Accenture), Martin Otto (HEB), Nick Epley (University of Chicago), Cheryl Hughey (Southwest Airlines), Molly Kern (CUNY), Paul Kinscherff (formerly of Boeing), Amit Kumar (UT-Austin), Tamara Fields (Accenture), Kathleen McElroy (UT-Austin), Peggy Cunningham (Dalhousie University) 

Conference attendance is restricted to registered attendees only.

To register and RSVP, please click here


October 2019:


  • October 10, 2019 - "Why Good People Do Bad Things: The Science of Behavioral Ethics" by Dr. Robert Prentice, Professor and Department Chair of Business, Government, and Society
    • When good people do bad things, it is usually not because they have failed to read enough Aristotle or Kant.  More commonly, their brains have given them permission to do something that, in retrospect, it is easy for them to see was wrong.  Philosophy is integral to the study of morality, but so is behavioral ethics---the study of how and why people make the ethical (and unethical) decisions that they do.

      Robert Prentice teaches business law and business ethics at the Texas McCombs School of Business, UT-Austin, where he is Chair of the Business Government & Society Department and the faculty director of the Ethics Unwrapped Video Series and Educational Program in the Center for Leadership and Ethics.

September 2019:


  • September 26, 2019 - "Ethics, Technology and You: Pragmatic Scenarios and Frameworks for Guidance" by Rebecca (Becky) Taylor, Industry Fellow for The Ethics Project
    • Are we lost as a society when it comes to the technologies we build, those that we depend on, and those that shape our desires and experiences? What are the ethics of new technologies? Join the UT Ethics Project for a discussion of practical stories, pressing issues, and ethical concerns in our efforts to build, sell, and use technology. Rebecca Taylor, an Industry Fellow of the Ethics Project, will show us how tech firms are in a maze now with no viable map to escape some of their most pressing ethical quandaries. Discussion will be encouraged during this session.

      Rebecca Taylor is a Managing Partner at RST Associates, LLC. and is the Industry Fellow for The Ethics Project at UT Austin. She brings more than 30 years of technology and business experience to the project, in both startups and large organizations. Ms. Taylor's experience, together with an abiding interest in developing ethical frameworks that are practical and impactful, will aid The Ethics Project in learning more specifically what ethical issues are of most importance to industry and other non-academic organizations. She is available to discuss areas of interest to the technology and greater business community, in terms of practical dilemmas facing companies as they build advanced technology products.

April 2019:


  • April 8, 2019 - "Being a Slave of the Community: Race, Domination, and Republicanism" by Dr. Melvin Rogers
    • Any effort to understand approaches to justice that rest on principles of non-domination would do well to reflect on those who have sought to address racial domination. In particular, the resources of 19thcentury African-American political thought have much to offer. In the 19thcentury African American intellectuals, seeking to discover how to undo and ward off racial domination, drew on two different strands of the philosophical tradition of republicanism. In the process they produced a third strand in which republicanism is linked to racial equality. A look at this body of work offers us the chance to recover resources for contemporary projects of justice, while also requiring us to revise traditional accounts of when and where republicanism, as a political theory, has waxed and waned. It will turn out that the work of building a political theory for justice as non-domination also requires undoing forms of domination reflected in the historiographic tradition. My lecture will recover this tradition in the African-American political thought while raising doubts about the inadequacy of the current revival of republicanism in addressing racial domination. 
    • Dr. Melvin Rogers is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Brown University. He is the author of The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2008) and co-editor of African American Political Thought: A Collected History (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming). His articles have appeared in major academic journals as well as popular venues such as DissentThe AtlanticPublic Seminar, and Boston Review. Rogers serves as the co-editor of the New Histories of Philosophy series at Oxford University Press. Presently, he is at work on his second book, The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought.
    • Co-Sponsored by the Center for Media Engagement, The University of Texas at Austin

 February 2019: 

  • February 8-9, 2019 - The 2019 Royal Conference in Honor of Paul Woodruff

    • This year’s Royal Conference, which may well be the final one, is in honor of our own Royal Professor of Ethics and American Society, Dr. Paul Woodruff. The many talks given in this conference will be a tribute to Dr. Woodruff and his many contributions to the public good, to the good of the University, and to the good of the Department.

  • February 13, 2019 - "Eros Philosophos: A Public Lecture by Paul Woodruff"

    • Dr. Woodruff asks, “Will falling in love make you a better philosopher? Plato says yes, but only if you are a very special person. Will falling for philosophy make you a better lover? Same answer from Plato. In my talk I will ask how wisdom and love are connected, discuss Plato's answer, and suggest my own.” Woodruff has authored several books of original philosophy and scholarship; and has translated classical texts, including Plato’s Symposium. He served as director of the Plan II Program for 15 years, and was UT Austin’s inaugural dean of Undergraduate Studies. This event is free and open to everybody.  

January 2019: 

  • January 21, 2019 - Committee Meeting on building momentum from our first conference

November 2018:

The Ethics Project at The University of Texas at Austin launched its first conference from November 1st-3rd, 2018. The conference highlighted a variety of works that an ethics center could support and offer to the university and the wider Austin community. The conference was sponsored by “Once Upon a Time . . .”, a foundation, and by the Royal Professorship. 


Thursday, November 1st - Keynote Lecture at the Ladybird Johnson Auditorium

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Photo by Michael Mullenix Photography  


Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, is a renowned author of seminal works on cosmopolitanism, identity, and global ethics, including In My Father's House, The Honor Code, and the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism. This free public lecture will be open to the public.

This event featured a discussion of Dr. Appiah's lessons from writing The Ethicist column in The New York Times along with central ideas from his recent book, The Lies that Bind: Rethinking Identity. Appiah challenged common assumptions about identity and argue that many of the social and political issues that we face in society today arise from misunderstandings about how we frame issues concerning race, class, gender, and religion. Appiah examined how identities are created through conflict and contends that the practice of classifying ourselves in terms of social identities falsifies our sense of who we are. If we are to make societal progress and to live good lives, we must begin by first getting clearer about how we frame the issues that seem to depend on social identities. 

Friday, November 2nd - Showcasing Practical Ethics


2:15-3:30 p.m.  “Challenging the Conceptual Adequacy of Normative Ethics with the Results of Empirical Ethics”
  • Dr. Larry Mccullough, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
3:45-5:00 p.m.  “The Stories We Tell: Narrative Ethics and the Construction of Moral Boundaries in Refugee Communities”

Saturday, November 3rd  - Designing an Ethics Center for UT Austin: Promises and Pitfalls. 

2:00-3:15 p.m.  “Creating and Sustaining Multidisciplinary Research in Empirical and Normative Ethics”
  • Dr. Larry Mccullough, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
3:30-4:45 p.m.  “Does the University Need an Ethics Center? An Insider View from Harvard and UT”
  • Dr. Jess Miner, Research Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
5-6:30 p.m.  Panel Discussion: What practical issues should an ethics center at UT consider? How could such a center be useful to the community? What disciplines need to be involved? How should such a center be financed?


September 2018: 

  • September 27, 2018 - September General Meeting - Discussion led by Rebecca Taylor, Managing Partner, RST Associates, LLC.

    • Ms. Taylor will be leading a discussion on how a center for the ethics of technology could operate. More specifically, she will discuss what topics such a center would take on and how it could be financed. Crucially, she will illuminate and represent what the real world would want from an Ethics Center at UT Austin. 

April 2018:

  • April 10th, 2018 - Committee Meeting on next steps for the project 

March 2018:

  • March 5th, 2018 - First General Meeting - Discussion led by Director, Paul Woodruff - “The Ethics Project (Leading Towards the Ethics Center)”

  • March 26th, 2018 - Second General Meeting - Discussion led by Director, Paul Woodruff - “Turning our Backs on Values: The Gorgias Syndrome”

February 2018:

  • February 27th, 2018 - Bill Winslade’s “The Past, Present, and Future of Bioethics” Lecture at 4:00 PM in ETC 2.108.