Center for Public Philosophy, UC Santa Cruz

Center for Public Philosophy

Founded in November 2015, the Center for Public Philosophy aims to spread philosophy beyond the classroom.

The Center for Public Philosophy is driven by the conviction that philosophy can be a force for positive change in the world.

Nearly everyone thinks about philosophy; many just don’t know it in those terms.

We regularly grapple with philosophical questions, and make decisions based on philosophical assumptions: about the importance of equality, whether it’s wrong to cheat, the ethics of eating meat, what it is to lead a meaningful life, and on.

For the most part though, sustained philosophy inquiry is supported primarily at colleges and universities.

Through community programming, student fieldwork, media production, research, and public events, the Center for Public Philosophy strives to change this.

Along with many like-minded organizations across the country and globe, we are sharing the power, practice, and joy of philosophy far beyond university walls.

In the near future, the Center for Public Philosophy and the Marc Sanders Foundation will partner to bring philosophy to Silicon Valley, and to produce media for the general public.

Our People

Our Programs

Ethics and Technology

TEQ Deck: Technology. Ethics. Questions. In collaboration with UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering, the CPP is creating a deck of playing cards to catalyze conversations about ethics & technology. Each card presents a pressing question arising from recent, emerging, or envisioned technology.

Facing Technology: The Center for Public Philosophy hosted the Public Philosophy Network’s 2023 Conference (September 8-10): Facing Technology: The Role of Public Philosophy. This was a collaboration with the Baskin School of Engineering and UCSC’s Humanities Division.

Ethics Bowl

Many of the CPP’s programs involve the Ethics Bowl (EB). Unlike more traditional debate formats, which often reward skillful rhetoric and ‘lawyerly’ arguing, the Ethics Bowl cultivates skills required for productive dialogue in contexts of disagreement, especially on divisive issues.*

The CPP hosts the High School Ethics Bowl (HSEB) of Northern California, the regional competition of the National HSEB. Additionally, UCSC hosts three unique programs that the CPP founded:

The Outreach Invitational: It became clear to us that the schools participating and thriving at the Regional HSEB were largely well-resourced high schools. In 2016, we created the Invitational EB, which supports under-resourced high schools by training select undergraduates to serve as EB coaches at these schools, and providing them with funding for food and transportation. Our coaches prepare the new teams for a culminating Invitational Ethics Bowl held on the UCSC campus. The Outreach Invitational HSEB program received the APA/PDC 2022 Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs.

Spanish Ethics Bowl: Since 2019, the Outreach Invitational has included a special Spanish track. A consistent number of HS students in the area had been very interested in the EB but didn’t join because it was in English. Students in the Spanish track prepare and compete in Spanish, coached by Spanish-speaking UCSC undergraduates. We provide bilingual judges and moderators at the Bowl. As far as we know, we have created the first Spanish EB in the U.S.

San Quentin State Prison: In 2017, in collaboration with the Prison University Project (PUP), the CPP started an annual Ethics Bowl program at San Quentin State Prison. From September to February, CPP & PUP ((not Mount Tamalpais College) share and practice the Ethics Bowl with people incarcerated at the prison. Every February, undergraduates from the UCSC Ethics Bowl team travel to San Quentin to engage in an Ethics Bowl round with the San Quentin team inside the prison.

Here is a report, in UCSC Magazine in 2018, on our program at San Quentin Prison and the Ethics Bowl. A more recent article, from 2023, can also be found here.

Public Events

Night of Ideas: CPP, in partnership with the Institute of the Arts and Sciences (conveniently located off campus) and Villa Albertine, plans a Santa Cruz edition of the Night of Ideas (in the footsteps of the Crossing Borders event that happened in May 2023). Tentative date for 2024: March 1st (first day of the National Women’s History Month). Open to the Public.

Philo booth: every first Friday of each month, CPP will hold a “Ask a Philosopher” booth at Abbott Square, one of the most vibrant public plazas in Santa Cruz, right next to our Museum of Art & History. The booth should provide CPP with more public visibility on a regular basis, engaging passers-by in conversation with philosophers.

Learn more about CPP’s wide-ranging programming by clicking the links below!

Support the Center for Public Philosophy!

The Marc Sanders Foundation will match your gift, dollar-for-dollar, up to $10,000! Use the form below, and you will be taken to Paypal where you may enter your donation amount. We are grateful for anything you can give to this worthy organization!

Help us meet our fundraising goal!

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    The Marc Sanders Foundation would be happy to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us (e-mail is preferred) about any questions you might have.


    Barry Lam

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