“The Public Role of Ethics and Public Policy,” in The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy, ed. Annabelle Lever and Andrei Poama (2019)

My thesis is that we should regard ethics and public policy (EPP) as a special subfield of political philosophy, marked by a particular methodological commitment: to assist citizens and policymakers in their actual deliberations about public policy. EPP can assist the task of public deliberation on public policy in many ways, but I will discus two. First, it can help to craft the normative menu of various policy options, and the arguments that underlie them, from which both policymakers and ordinary citizens can choose. To design a menu of this kind, scholars of EPP must not simply defend the views that they take to be correct. Rather, they must see their task as one of mapping out the logical space in a given policy debate – identifying a variety of positions one might hold and the arguments for holding them, often by rationally reconstructing positions commonly defended by citizens in the public sphere. In this way, EPP aspires to increase the intelligence of public debate. Second, EPP can bolster public deliberation about public policy by helping citizens to bypass needless disagreements – namely, by revealing why those who hold different underlying commitments can nevertheless converge to find policy agreement. The task of this chapter is to elaborate this vision for EPP and defend its importance.