Hugh LaFollette, Ph.D., and the International Encyclopedia of Ethics

Ethics professor’s six-year labor culminates with International Encyclopedia of Ethics

Hugh LaFollette, Ph.D., the Marie and Leslie E. Cole Chair of Ethics at USF St. Petersburg, is editor-in-chief of the newly published International Encyclopedia of Ethics, considered the most comprehensive, authoritative print and electronic ethics resource available.

The nine-volume encyclopedia, published by Wiley-Blackwell, is the culmination of six years of work by LaFollette, professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The encyclopedia involves more than 3 million words in more than 700 entries by 600 authors from 23 countries. The entries discuss topics, movements, arguments, and figures in Normative Ethics, Metaethics, and Practical Ethics. LaFollette worked with an editorial board of 24 ethics scholars. The electronic version will be updated regularly.

LaFollette said he’s not sure he would have agreed to do it if he knew from the start how arduous it would be. “It was so time consuming I had little time for other writing,” he says.

It took almost a year just to agree on the list of topics. Every article was blind-reviewed and reviewed again by either LaFollette or one of his associate editors. Nearly every article required changes. LaFollette read most of the articles before they were sent out for review. The process required a combination of persistence and diplomacy.

And there were technical challenges to overcome with the publisher’s electronic article submission software. LaFollette says he spent months on “a fairly extensive job writing instructions on how to submit articles.”

The overarching goal was to provide a single resource for anyone interested in ethics, LaFollette says.

The electronic version includes extensive hyperlinks to scholarly works and encyclopedia entries, an average of a dozen or more for each article.

The publisher originally envisioned three volumes with much shorter articles, but LaFollette had greater ambitions. “I said, ‘I will only do it if we do it right,”’ he recalls.

As difficult as it was to finish, LaFollette is happy with the result. “It’s something I’ll use like crazy in my classes,” he says. “It’s really meant for the educated public, not just for the philosophers.”

Norine Noonan, vice chancellor for academic affairs, says LaFollette’s work underscores the high level of scholarship at USF St. Petersburg.

“Dr. LaFollette ranks among the top ethics scholars in the country,” she said. “While this encyclopedia will certainly be an important resource for scholars, it will also be a source of information and guidance for teachers and students at all levels and for ordinary citizens who want to know more about all aspects of ethics and ethical thinking.”

LaFollette is the author of, among other things, The Practice of Ethics (Blackwell, 2007), Brute Science: The Dilemmas of Animal Experimentation (Routledge, 1997) and Personal Relationships: Love, Identity and Morality (Blackwell, 1996).  He is the editor of the Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (2nd  Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, late 2013), Ethics in Practice (4th edition forthcoming, Blackwell) and the Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics (Oxford, 2003).