Seana Valentine Shiffrin

Professor of Philosophy
Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice
University of California, Los Angeles


Speaking Amongst Ourselves: Democracy and Law

Democratic Law  
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Niko Kolodny

Common and Constitutional Law: A Democratic Legal Perspective 
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Richard R.W. Brooks and Anna B. Stilz

Seminar and Discussion with the commentators
Thursday, April 20, 2017
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Niko Kolodny, Richard R.W. Brooks, and Anna B. Stilz

The lectures and the seminar are free and open to the public.


About Seana Valentine Shiffrin

Seana Valentine Shiffrin is Professor of Philosophy and Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice at UCLA, where she has taught since 1992 and is the co-director and co-founder of the UCLA Law and Philosophy Program. Shiffrin received her B.A. degree from UC Berkeley where she was the University Medalist. She attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar and received the B.Phil. with Distinction and the D.Phil. in Philosophy. She earned her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. She teaches courses on moral and political philosophy as well as contracts, freedom of speech, constitutional rights and individual autonomy, remedies, and legal theory. She served for sixteen years as an associate editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs where she is now an advisory editor. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recent winner of the Rutter Award for excellence in teaching.

Her research addresses issues in moral, political and legal philosophy, as well as matters of legal doctrine that concern equality, autonomy, and the social conditions for their realization. She has written extensively on the morality of promising and the role of law in facilitating and fostering moral character, with a special emphasis on the connection between contracts and promises. Her recent book, Speech Matters, explored the ethics of communication and the connection between the prohibition on lying, freedom of speech, and moral progress.


About the Lectures

These lectures offer an account of democracy’s intrinsic communicative value and law’s special role in realizing that value. To nurture and sustain the social bases of self-respect and an operative sense of social solidarity, citizens must convey to each other their convictions of mutual equality, their commitments to respect their essential human needs and moral rights, and their mutual commitment to cooperate and provide every member with a stable place of belonging.   The morally incumbent forms of interpersonal communication require a sort of public commitment undertaken through articulate action.  Law serves as the requisite device of public communication that has qualities of substantive expression that mere discursive messages lack. Law is public, available for all to see, and takes the form of an ongoing, articulate commitment. But, for law to convey the message that citizens must convey, each of us must be able to contribute to its formation; hence, for law to play this special function, it must be democratically forged.

The first lecture traces these theoretical connections and some distinctive implications for democratic participation and respect for law. The second lecture explores two concrete implications — for contract law and for constitutional law– of a communicative conception of democratic law’s value.


About the Commentators

Richard R.W. Brooks

Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law
Columbia University

Richard Brooks’ scholarship centers on contracts and agency, among other forms of economic and social organization. Brooks has also published numerous books and articles analyzing behavior through the lens of economics, custom, and law.

Brooks is the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law at Colombia Law School and has served on Columbia’s faculty since 2013. He received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1988, his M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1996, a Ph.D. (economics) from the University of California, Berkeley in 1998 and J.D. from the university of Chicago Law school also in 1998.

His most recent book, Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms (HUP: 2013, co-authored with Carol Rose), examines the history and enduring legacy of racially restrictive property agreements (or racial covenants), which the Supreme Court ruled unenforceable in 1948. Before joining Columbia Brooks held the Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor Chair at Yale Law School. He also served on an advisory committee to the Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation; and as a research specialist in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.

Niko Kolodny

Professor of Philosophy
University of California, Berkeley

Niko Kolodny works in moral and political philosophy. His papers on love, rationality, and democracy, among other subjects, have been published in some of the leading venues in the field and have been delivered as invited lectures both in the U.S. and abroad. He edited and contributed to Death and the Afterlife (Oxford: 2013), based on Samuel Scheffler’s Tanner Lectures at Berkeley and contributed to Private Government (Oxford: 2017), based on Elizabeth Anderson’s Tanner Lectures at Princeton.

Before joining the Berkeley faculty in 2005, Kolodny was Assistant Professor at Harvard University and Research Associate at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University.  He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1994, M.A. from Oxford University in 1996, and Ph.D. from Berkeley in 2003.  He is an Associate Editor of the journal Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Anna B. Stilz

Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and Human Values
Princeton University

Anna Stilz’s research focuses on questions of political memberships, authority, and political obligation, nationalism and self-determination, rights to land and territory, and collective agency. She also has a strong interest in modern political thought.

Stilz is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1999, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2005. Stilz also served as a post-doctoral fellow in the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. She is also the current director of the Values and Public Life program at the University Center for Human Values, and serves as an associate editor for Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Her first book, Liberal Loyalty: Freedom, Obligation, and the State (PUP: 2009), dealt with questions about the moral importance of political citizenship and state authority. She is currently working on a new book project on self-determination, the sovereign states-system, and the rights to control land and territory. This project tries to articulate moral principles for demarcating state boundaries, and investigates the limits of a state’s justified power within these boundaries.