Professor Elizabeth Anderson to Deliver the 2013-2014 Arthur Allen Leff Lecture

Professor Elizabeth Anderson will deliver the 2013-2014 Arthur Allen Leff Lecture at Yale Law School on September 30, 2013. Her lecture is titled “Social Movements, Experiments in Living, and Moral Progress: Case Studies from Britain’s Abolition of Slavery.” It will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the faculty lounge.

Anderson is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


The lecture will focus on the worldwide revolution in moral consciousness that took place over the course of 200 years in which opinions on slavery changed from nearly universal acceptance to worldwide condemnation.

Describing the talk, Anderson says, “This lecture explores how we can know this change amounts to moral progress without begging the question in favor of our current moral opinions. British abolitionists played a pioneering role in this revolution by inventing the social movement as their vehicle for social change.  When moral opinions change as a result of social movements, this process of change often takes place in ways that enhance understanding and undermine moral biases. This provides grounds for thinking that the change is a case of moral learning. The ultimate test of moral progress, however, comes from experiments in living in accordance with the new moral beliefs.  This lecture considers how abolition was regarded as an experiment in free labor production and how that experiment was evaluated at the time.”

Anderson earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1987 and previously taught at Swarthmore College.  She has won many honors, including fellowships from the ACLS and Guggenheim Foundation, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and election to Vice President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association.  She is the author of Value in Ethics and Economics (Harvard UP, 1993), The Imperative of Integration (Princeton UP, 2010), and more than 60 articles in journals of philosophy, law, and economics.  She specializes in moral and political philosophy, social and feminist epistemology, and the philosophy of the social sciences.  She has written extensively on the interaction of facts and values in social science research, and on the intersection of democratic theory and social epistemology. She has also written extensively on affirmative action and racial integration, antidiscrimination law (including the law on sexual harassment), and the ethical limitations of the market.  Her current project is a history of egalitarianism from the Levellers to the present.

The Arthur Allen Leff Fellowship, established in memory of Arthur Allen Leff, Southmayd Professor of Law, brings to Yale Law School people whose work in other disciplines illuminates the study of law and legal institutions.