McDowell Conferences & Fellows Philosophy & Social Policy

The William Fraser McDowell Professorship was established in 1937 on the basis of a gift to the Department of Philosophy and Religion from the estate of Bishop William Fraser McDowell. The three previous incumbents were Professor Aubert Bain Potorf, Professor Harold A. Durfee, and Professor Jeffrey Reiman. The present incumbent, Professor Ellen Feder, has among her responsibilities the organization of the McDowell Conference and the appointment of McDowell Fellows.

Inaugural McDowell Fellow (Fall 2016)

Dr. Ellen Feder and the entire department welcomed Dr. M. Carmela Epright of Furman University as the inaugural McDowell Fellow in Philosophy and Social Policy. Dr. Epright will visit American University the week of October 17 to work with our students and faculty on developing issues in philosophy, ethics, bioethics, law, and psychology.

22nd Annual McDowell Conference

Theme of the 2013 event was "Philosophy and Climate Change."

Session I

Introduction: "Ethics and the Environment"
Jeffrey Reiman
, William Fraser McDowell Professor of Philosophy, American University

"Hope, Fear, Motivation, and Climate Change"
Cheryl Hall
, Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs, University of South Florida

"The Concepts of Harm and Cost in the Ethics of Climate Change"
Mark Sagoff
, Professor of Philosophy, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, George Mason University

"Moral Responsibility for Mitigation"
Madison Powers
, Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University; Senior Research Scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics

Session II

"An Ethics of International Climate Policy"
Andrew Light
, Professor and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, George Mason University; Senior Fellow and Director of International Climate Policy, Center for American Progress; Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy on Climate Change at the State Department

"Functional Climate Response: Community Matters in the Global South"
Patricia Glazebrook
, Professor and Chair of Philosophy, University of North Texas

"On the Shortcomings of Private and Public Approaches to Climate Ethics"
Evan Berry
, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion, American University


Evan Berry is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University and Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs master's program. His research interests focus on ideas of nature in modern western culture, particularly the religious roots of contemporary environmental discourse. Trained in both social scientific and theoretical methodologies, his current scholarship includes a book project on the religious roots of the American environmental movement and an analysis of the role of religious ideas and organizations in the global politics of sustainability.

Patricia Glazebrook received her PhD from the University of Toronto. She has published Heidegger's Philosophy of Science, and numerous papers on Heidegger, history and philosophy of science and technology, ecofeminism, and philosophy of international development. For the past seven years, she has been researching climate change impacts on women subsistence farmers in Ghana, with particular attention to the challenge of integrating women farmers' needs into climate adaptation policy and processes. This research has prompted further assessment of the growing threat to food security that climate change poses in Africa more broadly. Dr. Glazebrook is currently Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas.

Cheryl Hall teaches political theory in the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida. Her early research focused on rethinking concepts of reason and passion in political theory. Following her growing concern with climate change and biodiversity loss, she began working in environmental political theory. She is interested in the interconnected roles that values, habits, emotions, deliberation, imagination, stories, culture, and structures play in encouraging or discouraging action to foster more sustainable ways of life.

Andrew Light is Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy, and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy (IPPP) at George Mason University; Senior Fellow and Director of International Climate Policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, DC; and Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy on Climate Change at the State Department. In his academic career he has worked primarily at the intersection of environmental ethics and public policy, with a focus on terrestrial restoration ecology and urban ecology. He has written over 80 scholarly articles and authored, co-authored, and edited 17 books including Environmental Pragmatism (1996), Technology and the Good Life? (2000), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (2003), Philosophy and Design (2008), and Environmental Values (2008). In his policy career he is chief adviser on international environmental affairs to CAP's chairman, and leads CAP's work on bilateral and multilateral climate and energy agreements, most recently with a focus on climate finance, short-lived climate forcers, and the US relationship with China and India. He is a frequent adviser to the US State Department, the Department of Energy, and the President's National Security Council, and serves as co-chair of the US International Climate Leaders Working Group. He is also the founding co-editor of the journal Ethics, Policy, and Environment.

Jeffrey Reiman is the William Fraser McDowell Professor of Philosophy at American University. He is the author of In Defense of Political Philosophy (Harper & Row, 1972), Justice and Modern Moral Philosophy (Yale, 1990), Critical Moral Liberalism: Theory and Practice (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), The Death Penalty: For and Against (with Louis Pojman) (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), Abortion and the Ways We Value Human Life (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, 10th ed. (with Paul Leighton) (Allyn & Bacon, 2012), As Free and As Just as Possible: The Theory of Marxian Liberalism (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and more than a hundred and twenty articles in philosophy and criminal justice journals and anthologies.

Madison Powers is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, and former Director of the Kennedy Institute. Dr. Powers has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on a variety of topics in normative and practical philosophy, including a long-standing interest in questions of justice in public health and social policy. He was a recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Investigator Award, and for many years he also served as a member and as chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Program. With Ruth Faden he is co-author of Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Care Policy (Oxford University Press, 2006; revised edition, 2008). Current research interests center on environmental challenges arising from the global system of production and distribution of food, energy, and water—a triad of interrelated issues of justice that he has dubbed the "FEW Problem." The focus is upon public regulatory policies and private resource decisions that have the potential to systematically disadvantage many of the planet's most vulnerable and least powerful people.

Mark Sagoff is Professor of Philosophy and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. Before landing on his feet there, he taught and churned out academic publications at Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (Madison), Cornell, and Maryland (College Park). He has been a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, of the AAAS, the Hastings Center, and is Senior Fellow at the Breakthrough Institute.

Past Conferences

2012 Philosophy and the Family

2011 Philosophy and Criminal Justice

2010 The Place of Religion in Public Life

2009 Philosophy, Politics and Film

2008 Philosophy and the Emotions

2006 Rights of and Duties to Children

2005 Ethics and Genetics

2004 Philosophy and Tolerance

2003 Philosophy for the 21st Century

2002 The Philosophical Implications of September 11th

2001 Philosophy and Democracy

1999 Philosophy and Race

1998 Philosophy and Human Rights

1997 Philosophy and Feminism

1996 The Morality of Welfare for the Poor

1995 Philosophy, Ethics and the Environment

1994 Philosophy and Moral Education

1992 Philosophy, Health Care and Euthanasia

1991 Philosophy, Morality and War

1990 Philosophy, Drugs and the Law

1989 Abortion, Morality, and the Law