University Center for Human Values


  • Director

    • Melissa S. Lane
  • Executive Committee

    • Charles R. Beitz
    • Sandra L. Bermann
    • Renee Bolinger
    • Andrew Chignell
    • Marc Fleurbaey
    • Johann D. Frick
    • Eric S. Gregory
    • Elizabeth Harman
    • Melissa S. Lane
    • Tania Lombrozo
    • Stephen J. Macedo
    • Jan-Werner Mueller
    • Alan W. Patten
    • Philip N. Pettit
    • Kim Lane Scheppele
    • Peter Singer
    • Michael A. Smith
    • Anna B. Stilz
  • Associated Faculty

    • Elizabeth M. Armstrong
    • Leora F. Batnitzky
    • João G. Biehl
    • Amy B. Borovoy
    • Michael Celia
    • Jonathan D. Cohen
    • Alin I. Coman
    • Gregory Conti
    • Nathaniel D. Daw
    • Matthew Desmond
    • Mitchell Duneier
    • Karen Emmerich
    • Edward Felten
    • Susan T. Fiske
    • Paul Frymer
    • Daniel Garber
    • Sheldon M. Garon
    • Sophie G. Gee
    • Robert P. George
    • Eddie S. Glaude
    • Jonathan Gold
    • Lars O. Hedin
    • Grace Helton
    • Brooke A. Holmes
    • Mark Johnston
    • Thomas P. Kelly
    • Martin Kern
    • Anna Arabindan Kesson
    • Joshua I. Kotin
    • Regina Kunzel
    • Ilyana Kuziemko
    • Harvey Lederman
    • Thomas C. Leonard
    • Sarah-Jane Leslie
    • Simon Levin
    • Tania Lombrozo
    • Douglas S. Massey
    • Anne McClintock
    • Sarah E. McGrath
    • Helen Milner
    • Francois Morel
    • Benjamin C. Morison
    • Naomi Murakawa
    • Alexander Nehamas
    • Robert Nixon
    • Guy J. Nordenson
    • Jeff E. Nunokawa
    • Serguei Oushakine
    • Stephen Pacala
    • Dan-El Padilla Peralta
    • Imani Perry
    • Deborah A. Prentice
    • Gideon A. Rosen
    • Martha A. Sandweiss
    • Esther H. Schor
    • Harold T. Shapiro
    • Paul E. Starr
    • Dara Strolovich
    • Frederick Wherry
    • David Wilcove
    • Robert J. Wuthnow
  • Sits with Committee

    • Victoria McGeer

Program Information

Established in 1990 through the generosity of Laurance S. Rockefeller ‘32, the University Center for Human Values fosters ongoing inquiry into important ethical issues in private and public life and supports teaching, research, and discussion of ethics and human values throughout the curriculum and across the disciplines.

Today, the center is the hub of a lively and exciting community that brings together Princeton faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, visiting faculty fellows and other visitors. The center is home to a growing number of faculty members with teaching and research interests in various aspects of human values, most of whom are jointly appointed in their disciplines. The undergraduate certificate program in Values and Public Life defines a pathway through the curriculum for students interested in developing a focus on human values. We sponsor an array of activities, from specialized seminars and lectures to large campus events, aimed to stimulate and inform members of the center and of the greater campus community. And we support research on human values by Princeton faculty members, graduate students and undergraduates. Through all of these activities the center strives to provide the larger community with the space and resources to reflect systematically about fundamental questions of value—how we should understand our moral identities, how we should treat each other, and how we should try to shape our world.

One of the University Center's activities within the undergraduate curriculum is to cosponsor courses with departments and programs. The center encourages students to supplement their disciplinary concentrations with a set of these courses, which address fundamental questions about the meaning and value of human life and the ethical relationships of individuals and societies. The University Center for Human Values is also home to the Human Values Forum, which provides an opportunity for undergraduate students and faculty members to meet in an informal setting to discuss current and enduring questions concerning ethics and human values.

The undergraduate courses listed below, some of which are sponsored or cosponsored by the center, examine issues involving human values from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Each year the University Center for Human Values sponsors several Freshman Seminars in the residential colleges. For a list of the current seminars, please check the freshman seminars website.

The center awards senior thesis prizes to seniors who have written outstanding theses in the area of ethics and human values. Departments are invited to nominate their best thesis in this area.

For information about courses relevant to the study of human values, visit the center's website.


CHV 202 Introduction to Moral Philosophy (See PHI 202)

CHV 212 The Psychology of Moral Behavior (See PSY 212)

CHV 213 The Psychology of Morality and Politics (See PSY 213)

CHV 214 The Other Side of Rome (See CLA 214)

CHV 244 Greek Politics in Practice and Theory (See CLA 244)

CHV 255 From Pandora to Psychopathy: Evil from Antiquity to the Present (See CLA 255)

CHV 261 Christian Ethics and Modern Society (See REL 261)

CHV 264 Religion and Reason (See REL 264)

CHV 277 Biomedical Ethics (See PHI 277)

CHV 301 Ethics and Public Policy (See WWS 370)

CHV 302 Sociological Theory (See SOC 302)

CHV 306 Democratic Theory (See POL 306)

CHV 307 The Just Society (See POL 307)

CHV 309 Political Philosophy (See PHI 309)

CHV 310 Practical Ethics (also
PHI 385
) Not offered this year EM

Should we share our wealth with people who will otherwise die from poverty-related causes? Is abortion wrong? Does a human embryo have a greater claim to protection than a chimpanzee? Are we justified in eating animals? Can the traditional doctrine of the sanctity of human life be defended? When should a nation go to war? And why should we act ethically, anyway? Students will be encouraged to question their own ethical beliefs on these and other issues, and in the process to explore the extent to which reason and argument can play a role in everyday ethical decision-making. Instructed by: P. Singer

CHV 311 Systematic Ethics (See PHI 307)

CHV 313 Global Justice (See POL 313)

CHV 314 Citizenships Ancient and Modern (See CLA 310)

CHV 315 Philosophy of Mind (See PHI 315)

CHV 317 Cognitive Science of Metaethics (See CGS 312)

CHV 318 Social Philosophy (See PHI 316)

CHV 319 Normative Ethics (See PHI 319)

CHV 330 Greek Law and Legal Practice (See CLA 330)

CHV 334 Death (also
PHI 377
) Spring EM

This is a course on ethical issues concerning death. Topics will include (among others) the badness (or lack thereof) of death, the ethics of distribution of scarce life-saving medical resources, the ethics of abortion, the ethics of physician-assisted suicide, and the importance (or lack thereof) of the survival of the human species. Instructed by: M. Rabenberg

CHV 335 Greek Ethical Theory (See PHI 335)

CHV 345 Ethics and Economics (See ECO 385)

CHV 355 Wilson goes to Hollywood: State-Propaganda-Film Fall EM

The course explores the various forms of interaction between state power to control information flows and film production and distribution in light of normative concerns about free speech. Using concrete cinematic examples, we aim to determine normatively relevant criteria to distinguish between creative, critical, and satirical expressions of art on the one hand, and propagandistic incitement to hatred and violence as well as pornographic incitement for sexual domination and violence, on the other. Instructed by: E. Kiss

CHV 362 Stolen Years: Youth under the Nazis in World War II (See COM 362)

CHV 363 Non-Cognitivism in Ethics (See PHI 362)

CHV 364 Sociology of Medicine (See SOC 364)

CHV 370 Capitalism, Utopia and Social Justice (also
ECO 369
) Spring SA

This seminar, inspired by the International Panel on Social Progress, explores the values that are relevant to social justice issues nowadays, the trends in social structures that shape inequalities, and the possibilities for improving social institutions and make life better for most populations. The course covers systemic questions (capitalism, socialism, libertarianism) and policy questions (how to rethink the welfare state, the labor market, globalization). The aim of the seminar is to train students to clearly articulate positive and normative reasoning, and to critically examine prevailing institutions and ideas for reforms. Instructed by: M. Fleurbaey

CHV 374 Philosophy of Randomness and Extreme Risk (See PHI 374)

CHV 380 Explaining Values (See PHI 380)

CHV 383 Freedom and Responsibility (See PHI 383)

CHV 392 Sex and Ethics (See PHI 392)

CHV 401 Hope: A History (also
COM 437
HUM 402
) Spring EM

This interdisciplinary course combines literary, philosophical and theological analysis to investigate hope and how its formulations in the West have evolved over time, from Greco-Roman antiquity to the present. When is hope a virtue or positive aspect of agency, and when is it an illusion or vice? What are the relations of personal to national, political, and religious hopes? Readings will cover poetry and prose fiction, philosophical essays and drama, drawn from the Bible and authors including Hesiod, Lucretius, Cicero, Dante, William Wordsworth, the Shelleys, Emily Dickinson, Kafka, Camus, Holocaust witnesses, and M. L. King. Instructed by: A. Potkay

CHV 403 Architecture and Democracy (See POL 403)

CHV 405 The Sociology of Law (See SOC 405)

CHV 407 Kant's Ethical Religion (See REL 402)

CHV 411 Free Speech in the Internet Age (See PHI 411)

CHV 416 Moral Conflicts in Public and Private Life (See POL 416)

CHV 421 Punishment: Theory and Practice (also
POL 493
) Spring EM

This course examines the theory and practice of punishment in the US. Over the past 30 years, US incarceration rates have soared. Princeton students, alongside incarcerated students, together will ask why and how we punish; who really constitutes the "we" doing the punishing; why a gap might exist between the theory and practice of punishment; and what might be done. The course, organized through PTI and UCHV, involves weekly travel to and from a New Jersey correctional facility and intensive, collaborative discussions between Princeton and Rutgers students. Instructed by: Staff

CHV 431 BANNED: The Paradox of Free Speech in Cinema (See COM 431)

CHV 470 Comparative Constitutional Law (See WWS 421)