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The Australian National University

Associate Professor Seth Lazar

D.Phil. M.Phil. BA (Hons)
Associate Professor
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02 61258995

Areas of expertise

  • Social Philosophy 220319
  • Ethical Theory 220305
  • Applied Ethics 2201
  • Human Rights And Justice Issues 220104
  • Political Theory And Political Philosophy 160609
  • Decision Theory 220302
  • International Relations 160607

Research interests

Although I've always published on a diverse range of topics in normative ethics and political philosophy, my career so far has had two main phases. The first, in which I focused on the ethics of war and self-defence, culminated in a monograph on the protection of noncombatants in war—Sparing Civilians (Oxford, 2015). The book has had some nice reviews, and is the subject of a recent symposium in Law and Philosophy.

The second phase has involved focusing on the ethics of risk, and in particular on how to extend deontological moral theories to circumstances of risk and uncertainty. I'm planning to write a book, called Duty under Doubt: Deontological Decisionmaking with Imperfect Information, drawing on the many articles I have published in this area. 

These two projects have teed me up for a third, in which I plan to work on ethics for machine intelligence, with a particular interest in how to incorporate moral principles into the kind of decision theory that AI can use, as well as how to use AI to make better moral decisions. I'm especially interested in developing a moral version of sequential decision theory, to complement the work done in my second project. 

I've published many papers in the world's top philosophy journals. I hope that my work has influenced not only other philosophers, but also military practitioners, from cadets to generals (working with the latter for an American Academy project was particularly rewarding). My proudest academic achievement is to have published, since 2009, six papers in the best journals in my field (and two of the hardest philosophy journals to publish in—both have rejection rates of around 95%)—Ethics and Philosophy & Public Affairs. This is not only the equal most papers anyone has published in those journals over that period (only Allen Buchanan has done the same), it also means that in the period from 1990-2018, only seven philosophers have published more than me in those journals—Allen Buchanan, Frances Kamm, Kit Wellman, Mike Otsuka, Philip Pettit, Liz Anderson, and Bob Goodin. I'm pretty chuffed to be on that list (they're all senior professors at major universities around the world, who got their PhDs decades before me, except two, minted 15 years ahead of me). 

Besides Ethics and Philosophy & Public Affairs, I've also placed papers in the best generalist journals, such as Nous, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, and others. I've got three forthcoming papers (besides the one at P&PA) that don't show up below—in Philosophical Quarterly, in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, and in Utilitas. I'm an Area Editor at Ergo, an editor of Philosophers' Imprint, and on the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy. I've edited a major oxford handbook (of ethics of war), as well as a volume on the morality of defensive war. 

 

 

 

 

 

Biography

I'm Associate Professor, and Head of the School of Philosophy, at the ANU. I work on political philosophy and ethical theory. I'm writing a book, called Duty Under Doubt: Deontological Decision-Making with Imperfect Information. With a team of philosophers, computer scientists, and social scientists, I'm developing a project on Humanising Machine Intelligence. For that, I aim to develop a deontological theory of dynamic choice.

I took my D.Phil. in Oxford in May 2009, after which, with my wife Lu, I took a break to cross Africa overland by public transport from Morocco to South Africa, visiting a town beginning with every letter of the alphabet (in order). Lu's a writer and I'm a photographer. You can see my pictures at sethlazar.org, and find her writing by searching for Lu Barnham. We now have two kids, so don't travel as much any more. But I still take pictures (and Lu's writing about Australia).

In 2011 I was awarded the Frank Chapman Sharp Prize, the American Philosophical Association's prize for the best unpublished monograph on the philosophy of war and peace, and in 2016 I received an Early Career Researcher Commendation from the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia. I've written op-eds for Boston Review, and recorded interviews with a number of philosophy podcasts. In 2013, I was awarded a $366,000 DECRA grant. In 2016, I was lead CI on a Discovery Grant of $335,000, on Ethics and Risk. 

Current student projects

Lexical Priority and Risk

Moral Anti-Rationalism

Addressing the Environmental Crisis

Contractualism and Future Generations

Publications

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  12 December 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers