The Ethics of Choice

The Ethics of Choice conference is a University-wide initiative designed to showcase and highlight the multi-disciplinary work of a large group of University of Richmond faculty.

Local, national, and international participants will explore how and why people make ethical choices and address the nature of ethical decision-making and its consequences. Panel chairs were encouraged to invite their own participants, ensuring a diversity of panelists and session topics.

More than 50 panelists from around the world are participating in the conference, which will be held Feb. 10—12 in the Jepson Alumni Center. The conference is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required.

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  • Opening Plenary: What We Owe the Distant Future and How We Should Live Today

    Thursday, Feb. 10
    What We Owe the Distant Future and How We Should Live Today
    7 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Robins Pavilion
    *This discussion with be livestreamed to the public. 

    The Jepson School of Leadership Studies presents a discussion between economist Tyler Cowen and ethicist Jessica Flanigan. They will explore the ethical challenges of globalization and development, inequality and markets, politics today, and what we owe to the distant future.

    Tyler Cowen, the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics and Chair and Faculty Director of the Mercatus Center, George Mason University

    Jessica Flanigan, Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law (PPEL); the Richard L. Morrill Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values, University of Richmond

  • The Ethics of Institutions

    Session 1:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    9—10:30 a.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Quigg Room 

    Panel Chair
    Jessica Flanigan, Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL); the Richard L. Morrill Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Billy Christmas, Lecturer in Political Theory, Kings College London
    James Lindley Wilson, Assistant Professor of Political Science, The University of Chicago
    Suzanne Marie Love, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Georgia State University

    Description:
    Kantians generally think that it’s very important to respect people’s rights against interference. But philosophers who agree on a broadly Kantian ethical framework often disagree about what this framework requires politically. This panel includes three Kantian-ish philosophers who emphasize three different political approaches— anarchism, socialism, and democracy. Our goal for this panel is to figure out why they disagree about justice when they agree about ethics.

  • Sharing Contemplative Practices with Our Students: How Mindfulness Practice Can Impact Our Choices

    Session 2:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    9—10:30 a.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room 

    Panel Chair
    Jennifer Cable, Professor of Music, Coodinator of Vocal Studies, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Monti Datta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond
    Roger Mancastroppa, Adjunct Instructor, Liberal Arts; Associate Director, Academic Skills Center, University of Richmond

     

  • Wealth Gains and Gaps

    Session 3:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    11 a.m.—12:30 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Robins Pavilion 

    Panel Chair

    Allison Anna Tait, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Naomi R. Cahn, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Law; Nancy L. Buc ’69 Research Professor in Democracy and Equity; Director, Family Law Center, University of Virginia 
    Carla Spivack, Oxford Research Professor and Director, Certificate Program in Estate Planning, Oklahoma City University School of Law

    Moderator
    Christopher Corts, Professor of Law, Legal Practice, University of Richmond
     
    Description:
    This panel will explore the various ways in which the options of ordinary- and low-wealth families for financial flourishing and economic stability are circumscribed and even undermined by the legal frameworks surrounding marriage, inheritance, and wealth management. While discursive tropes about opportunity, financial democratization, and economic mobility abound, rules governing family formation, taxation, and wealth management all provide benefit almost uniquely to high-wealth families. The result is a landscape of inequality in which legal rules enable both wealth gains and wealth gaps. Moreover, the intricacies of these legal frameworks reveal that genuine "choice" in family money matters is reserved for elite families.

  • Evolution of Moral Decision-Making

    Session 4:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    11 a.m.—12:30 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Quigg Room 

    Panel Chair
    Christopher R. von Rueden, Associate Professor of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Sarah Brosnan, Distinguished University Professor, Co-Director Language Research Institute, Georgia State University
    Andrew Delton, Associate Professor, Political Science and the College of Business, Stony Brook University
    Amrisha Vaish, Pamela Feinour Edmonds and Franklin S. Edmonds, Jr. Discovery Associate Professor in Psychology, University of Virginia

    Description:
    Why do we make the moral decisions we do? This session presents research broadly related to this question, from four speakers representing diverse disciplines: primatology, developmental and evolutionary psychology, and cultural anthropology. This diversity is purposeful: understanding moral decision-making- including how it varies with age and across cultures- requires consideration of primate and human evolution.

  • Exercising Ethical Choices: Translating Private Concerns into Public Claims for Justice

    Session 5:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    11 a.m.—12:30 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room 

    Panel Chair
    Jan French, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Patricia Boling, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University
    Meredith Harbach, Professor of Law, University of Richmond

    Description:
    The panel will consider ethical choices raised in three contexts: using food justice to challenge the dominant frame that what we eat is a matter of individual choice and not a matter for public policy or regulation; the state’s reactive orientation toward law and policy regulating families and children; and treatment of seriously mentally ill adults, the family’s caring role, and privacy/autonomy concerns. Through these cases, panelists will challenge the assumption that certain concerns are strictly private, individual choices and propose alternative ways of thinking about choice that might lead to policy changes.

  • Hard Choices: Moral Uncertainty, Conscientiousness, and the Problem of Dirty Hands

    Session 6:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    1:30—3 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Quigg Room

    Panel Chair
    Terry L. Price, Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law; Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Alfredo Yei Hernandez, Associate, VoteTripling.org
    John M. Parrish, Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the President, Loyola Marymount University
    Rebecca Stangl, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Admissions, University of Virginia 

  • Just Education: Why Post-Secondary Education Matters for the Imprisoned Citizen

    Session 7:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    1:30—3:00 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room

    Panel Chair
    Monti Datta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Andrea Simpson, Associate Dean, Thriving, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE) and Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond
    Raymond Tademy, Adjunct Instructor, Virginia Commonwealth University 

    Description:
    The panelists are part of an Arc of Justice (A&S) project entitled, “The Carceral Institution Education Project.” The project seeks to design a curriculum to offer citizens inside of Virginia state prisons. Covid interrupted the full launching of the project, which is now underway. The panelists will discuss the current state of carceral education, and why education is a key component of rehabilitation and re-entry.

  • Ethics and Financial Market Innovation: The Role of Academia and Industry

    Session 8:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    3:30—5 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Quigg Room

    Panel Chair
    Ardavan Mobasheri, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of Economics, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Jonathan Wight, Professor of Economics, University of Richmond
  • Leadership and Ethics

    Session 9:

    Friday, Feb. 11
    3:30—5 p.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room

    Panel Chair
    Marilie Coetsee, Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Ryan Davis, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University
    Amanda Greene, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University College London 
    Andrew Sabl, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto


     

  • School Choice

    Session 10:

    Saturday, Feb. 12
    9—10:30 a.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room

    Panel Chair
    Tom J. Shields, Associate Professor of Education and Leadership Studies; Associate Dean for Academic and Students Affairs in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University
    Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO, The Hunt Institute; Former-Secretary of Education for Virginia
    Robert Stevens, Associate Prinicipal, CodeRVA

  • Cooperation and Choice

    Session 11:

    Saturday, Feb. 12
    9—10:30 a.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room

    Panel Chair
    Richard Dagger, E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts, Emeritus; Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL), University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Yvonne Chiu, Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval War College
    Robert S. Taylor, Professor of Political Science; Director of Undergraduate Studies in Political Science, University of California, Davis
    Jeppe von Platz, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator of the Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL) Program, University of Richmond

    Description:
    Cooperation and choice seem to be entangled in a paradox.  On the one hand, the requirements of cooperation inevitably impose constraints on the individuals who find themselves engaged in cooperative activities; but on the other hand, cooperation makes it possible for individuals to do things -- and thus to choose to do things -- they could not do on their own.  Cooperation thus seems to expand and limit the freedom of choice at the same time.  The aim of this panel is to consider ways of disentangling or living with this paradox, with attention to the relationship of cooperation and choice in such areas of life as politics, economics, social relations, and even warfare.

  • The Relational and Non-relational Approaches: The Scope of Our Moral Obligation to Each Other

    Session 12:

    Saturday, Feb. 12
    10:45—12:15 a.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Quigg Room

    Panel Chair
    Frank Abumere, Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting International Scholar, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Samuel Ujewe, Senior Research Ethics Advisor, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
    John Sanni, Lecturer, University of Pretoria Department of Philosophy

    Description:
    The two major distinction lines in global justice are the relational approach and the non-relational approach. The relational approach is associative, that is, it is member-based. It emphasizes that the common relationships that bind moral agents of justice together have moral significance. While the non-relational approach denies that justice is based on any special relationship. It asserts that justice is based on our common humanity and common human factors such as natural prerogatives, basic needs, and so on. In view of the above contrasting approaches, this panel seeks to explore the scope or extensity of our moral obligation to each other. 

  • Agency and Responsibility

    Session 13:

    Saturday, Feb. 12
    10:45—12:15 a.m.
    Jepson Alumni Center, Rosenbaum Room
    *This presentation will be virtual. 

    Panel Chair
    Miriam McCormick, Professor of Philosophy, University of Richmond

    Panelists
    Coleen Macnamara, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Riverside
    Nancy Schauber, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL); Coordinator, Law and Liberal Arts Minor, University of Richmond