Beerbohm appointed director of Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics


Eminent political theorist Eric Beerbohm, Professor of Government and Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Philosophy, has been appointed as the next Director of Harvard’s Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics. The Justice, Health & Democracy Impact Initiative is part of the EL Safra Center.

Beerbohm succeeds Danielle S. Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor, M.A. ’98, Ph.D. ’01, who has served as Director since 2015 and will continue in her role as a University Professor.

“The Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics has been a catalyst for important work in ethics at Harvard and a key part of advancing that work in the world beyond,” said University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alan M. Garber. “Eric’s many intellectual achievements in the field of ethics and political thought and his cross-disciplinary engagement both inside and outside the University make him an ideal candidate to direct its work. I am thrilled that he has agreed to serve as Director.”

“I also want to extend my thanks to Danielle Allen for her tremendous leadership over the past eight years, both in continuing to develop the Center’s intellectual vision and building up the community of scholars carrying that vision forward,” said Garber. Over the course of her eight years of leadership, Allen established several major research and impact initiatives at the Center. These included the Design Studio for Ethics and Civics Pedagogy and the Justice, Health, and Democracy Impact Initiative, a project introduced by Allen to further the application of ethics in areas such as genetics, alternative emergency response programs, and economic dignity.

As Director of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics, Beerbohm will further its work to encourage teaching and research about ethical issues in public and professional life. He will expand on its work in Harvard’s house system, drawing on his experience serving as a Faculty Dean. As a longtime affiliate of the Center, he looks forward to taking on his new role.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with this vibrant community of students, faculty, and staff across the university as we grapple with the most serious ethical issues of our time. Some are arrestingly new—like ChatGPT. Others go back to when democracy was a pilot project,” Beerbohm said. “The Edmond & Lily Safra Center’s mission is as urgent now as when its Founding Director, Dennis Thompson, charted its path in 1986.”

“Eric embodies the commitment of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics to putting work on core human values at the center of teaching, learning, and public policy. He’s helped to build some of the Center’s most important programs—both our graduate and undergraduate fellowship programs—and invariably leads with warmth, collegiality, and integrity,” said Danielle Allen, the Center’s current Director. “I am excited to see where he will take the Center next.”

A renowned political theorist with expertise in democratic theory, political ethics, theories of social equality, and the philosophy of social science, Beerbohm is currently a Professor of Government and Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Philosophy. He also serves as Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies and Faculty Dean at Quincy House. He has a long history of engagement with the Center, having served as a Faculty Fellow from 2009 to 2010, and then as Director of Graduate Fellowships from 2010 to 2017 and Founding Director of its Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

Among many distinguished honors, Beerbohm has been named a Marshall Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities and Social Sciences. He is a recipient of the Roslyn Abramson Award, Harvard’s highest award for teaching, which is awarded annually to two faculty in the arts and sciences for “excellence and sensitivity in undergraduate teaching.”

Beerbohm is the author of the book In Our Name: The Ethics of Democracy, which considers the responsibilities of citizens for the injustices perpetuated by their state. His latest book project, Gaslighting Citizens (with Ryan Davis), examines political manipulation and its implications for democratic institutions. His book manuscript If Elected: The Ethics of Lawmaking and Campaigning examines the moral limits that apply to legislators and candidates operating within malfunctioning political systems. He has also written numerous scholarly articles and serves as editor of NOMOS, the annual edited volume of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy.

He holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2008, a B.Phil. in Philosophy from Oxford University, and a B.A. in Political Science and the Program in Ethics in Society from Stanford University.

The Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics strengthens teaching and research about pressing ethical issues, fosters sound norms of ethical reasoning and civic discussion, and shares the University’s work in ethics in the public interest. For 37 years, the Center has tackled numerous challenges at the intersection of ethics, public affairs, and the professions. Its benefactor, Mrs. Lily Safra, and her husband Edmond were dedicated philanthropists who supported countless causes dedicated to human dignity. The Center community is proud to honor their deep commitment to equality and dignity for all through its work.

Beerbohm will begin his duties as Director of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics on July 1, 2023. For more information about the Center’s work, visit their website.