Dec202010

Mark Sagoff to Direct the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University

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By James Greif

Mark Sagoff, director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. Photo courtesy of Mark Sagoff

Peter Stearns, provost, and Jack Censer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, have announced the chartering of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.

The institute arrives in January 2011 with the hiring of Mark Sagoff, who comes to Mason from the University of Maryland (UMD). Sagoff, who has directed the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at UMD since 2006, will continue in that role at Mason.

Sagoff has been a member of the institute since 1979 and before his current tenure as director, he previously served as director from 1988 to 1995. The affiliated journal, The Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, formerly published at UMD, will now be published at Mason. Andrew Light, Mason associate professor of philosophy, will serve as associate director of the institute, which will be housed in the Department of Philosophy.

The institute brings philosophical analysis — examining values and clarifying concepts — to the public discussion of pressing issues in public policy. Philosophers contribute to this discussion by framing and analyzing such questions as

  • When is the decision to go to war justified?
  • To what extent should society regulate the choices people make, for their own good?
  • What does ‘environmental protection’ mean beyond a concern with human health, safety and welfare?
  • What obligations do we have to future generations?
  • What is a fair distribution of limited resources in regard to health care?

Institute members will also address moral, legal and societal concerns that arise with emerging technologies, international development and global demands for ending injustice.

“Under Mark Sagoff’s direction, the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy will strengthen campus and university initiatives in the study of issues of public policy,” says Censer. “The addition of the institute will also offer a valuable resource to undergraduate and graduate philosophy students pursuing research opportunities.”

Sagoff, an internationally recognized environmental philosopher, has published extensively in journals related to law, philosophy and the environment. He is the author of “The Economy of the Earth” (second edition, 2008) and “Price Principle and the Environment” (2004).

Sagoff earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Rochester. He held teaching appointments at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Cornell University. Sagoff has served as president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics and as a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is a fellow of the Hastings Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The institute will make George Mason University known nationally and internationally as a center for research relating philosophical analysis to the problems of public policy,” Sagoff says. “I am excited by the support Mason has given the work of the institute and by opportunities for collaboration with other units of the university.”

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’s researchers anticipate working with Mason’s Departments of Public and International Affairs, Economics and Communication, as well as the School of Public Policy, in addition to other disciplines related to government, policy and science.

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