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

Public invited to participate in professor’s unusual literary project

Have you ever wondered what goes into writing and publishing a book? Have you ever wanted to write and publish your own book? Now is your chance. The public is invited to participate in an exciting literary project by USF St. Petersburg Philosophy Professor Hugh LaFollette, Ph.D.

LaFollette, the USFSP Marie and Leslie E. Cole Chair in Ethics, is seeking public input as he writes his next book, tentatively titled, The Ethics of Gun Control. He will explain the project during an organizational meeting at The Dali Museum Theater on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.

Beginning in January, LaFollette will meet monthly with interested members of the public to discuss the main points of each chapter, soliciting feedback from the audience. He likens it to the peer-review process of a scholarly work, but done in public with the intention of writing for a broad audience. At the end of each session he will offer advice to participants on their own non-fiction writing projects. After the initial meeting at The Dali Museum, future sessions will be held at USFSP. All of the sessions are free and open to the public.

LaFollette has been thinking and writing about gun control for years. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy last year, he published an op-ed column in the Tampa Bay Times laying out the complexities of gun control and suggesting liability insurance as an alternative. The column was adapted from a paper he published in the journal Ethics in 2000.

“Given how complex and emotional the topic of gun control is, I am looking forward to lively discussions as we work our way through each chapter,” LaFollette. “Everyone should feel free to pose questions and raise objections in a respectful and civil fashion.”

Frank Biafora, dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences, praised LaFollette for his willingness to open himself to public scrutiny. “Any serious writing project is daunting, but to ask the public to participate suggests a level of openness that is rare and praiseworthy,” he said.


Colleen Murphy, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Ethics lecture to focus on moral dilemma of political reconciliation

Colleen Murphy, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will give a public lecture titled, “Reconciling With Former Oppressors,” April 2 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Davis Hall 130 at USF St. Petersburg. It is free and open to the public.

Murphy is the author of A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation. Her lecture, co-sponsored by the USFSP Cole Chair in Ethics and the Honors Program, will focus on the moral questions surrounding how people who have been oppressed should deal with their former oppressors, and whether South Africa provides a model for other countries.

 “When one side has wronged the other, there’s a tendency to think, we need to punish the wrongdoer, whether it’s the former white government in South Africa or the former military junta in Argentina,” said Hugh LaFollette, Ph.D., the Cole Chair in Ethics. “In the past 20 there has been a movement to talk about reconciliation rather than punishment.”

In South Africa, LaFollette points out, the goal was not revenge but “to encourage perpetrators to admit what they had done and to face their victims and for the victims to face their perpetrators.” Croats took a different approach, putting their former Serbian oppressors on trial.

“The question of how people can forward after years of oppression is timely and worthy of considered thought,” said Frank Biafora, Ph.D., dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences. “It is exactly the kind of discussion the Cole Chair in Ethics was designed to address.”

The Honors Program at USF St. Petersburg offers academically gifted, highly motivated students an exceptional experience that broadens and deepens their undergraduate education. A distinguished faculty guides special seminars and lectures and provide Honors students with an array of research opportunities culminating in an original senior thesis.

For more information about the lecture or the Honors Program, please call Thomas Smith at (727) 873-4872.


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).