Welcome to my site. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Vrije University (VU) Amsterdam. I received my Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, my MA in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and my BA in philosophy from Vassar College. Prior to joining VU, I was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Florida Atlantic University. Before that, I was a Hecht-Levi Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University.
I primarily teach courses in bioethics and political philosophy—especially courses that focus on the intersection of the two, such as “Philosophy, Politics, and Economics of Healthcare,” or “Ethics, Public Policy, and Politics.” I am very proud to have received awards for exceptional teaching as a graduate student and a Center for Teaching and Learning graduate fellowship while at Penn. I’ve also been a co-director of the philosophy program associated with the Philly Futures program, where I taught philosophy to high school students. I am also the course coordinator for the M.A. Program at the VU, “Philosophy, Bioethics, and Health.”
My research focuses on issues at the intersection of bioethics, ethics, and political philosophy. One of my longer-term projects involves developing a theory of political legitimacy that’s better-suited to assess the legitimacy of particular actions rather than, say, assessing the legitimacy of particular institutions or states as a whole. Much of my recent work has focused on how individuals, medical practitioners, and government actors should respond to collective action problems related to health, in some sense of ‘related to health.’ This has led me to think especially about public health ethics generally, as well as political and ethical issues related to dietary patterns and infectious disease.
Daniel Mason D’Croz, Anne Barnhill, Justin Bernstein, Jessica Rose Bogard, Gabriel Dennis, et al (2022) “Ethical and Economic Implications of the Adoption of Novel Plant-Based Beef Substitutes in the USA: A General Equilibrium Modeling Study,” The Lancet Planetary Health 6 (8): 658-669.
Anne Barnhill, Justin Bernstein, Ruth Faden, Jessica Fanzo, Rebecca McClaren, and Travis Rieder (2022) “Moral Reasons for Individuals in High-Income Countries to Limit Beef Consumption,” Food Ethics 7 (11): 1-27.
- Justin Bernstein and Jan Dutkiewicz) “A Public Health Ethics Case for Mitigating Zoonotic Disease Risk in Food Production,” Food Ethics (2021).
- “Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Anti-Vaxxers, Fairness, and Anger,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal (2021).
- Pierce Randall and Justin Bernstein. “Reciprocity and the Ethics of Giving During Pandemics” Journal of Social Philosophy, (2021).
- Justin Bernstein and Pierce Randall. “Against the Public Goods Conception of Public Health,” Public Health Ethics (2020).
- Travis Rieder and Justin Bernstein. “The Case for Contributory Ethics: Or, How to Think About Individual Morality in a Time of Global Problems,” Ethics, Policy, and Environment (2020).
- Rupali Limaye, Molly Sauer, Joe Ali, Justin Bernstein, Brian Wahl, Anne Barnhill, and Alain Labrique. “Building Trust While Influencing Online COVID-19 Content in a Socially Mediated World,” The Lancet Digital Health (2020).
- Justin Bernstein, Taylor Holroyd, Jessica Atwell, Joe Ali, and Rupali Limaye. “Rockland County’s Proposed Ban Against Unvaccinated Minors: Balancing Disease Control, Trust, and Liberty,” Vaccine, (2019).
- “The Case Against Libertarian Arguments for Compulsory Vaccination,” Journal of Medical Ethics, (2017).
- C.M.M. Melenovsky and Justin Bernstein. “Why Free Market Rights are not Basic Liberties,” The Journal of Value Inquiry (2015).
- Ruth Faden, Justin Bernstein, and Sirine Shebaya, “Public Health Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition).
Justin Bernstein and Anne Barnhill (2022) “Political Philosophy During a Pandemic, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 25: 385-387.
Justin Bernstein and Pierce Randall (2021) “Gregory Pence’s Pandemic Bioethics,” Bioethics. Published online 20 December, 2021.
Justin Bernstein and Anne Barnhill (2021) “Bob Fischer’s The Ethics of Eating Animals,” Ethics 131 (3)
Newspapers and Other Media:
Justin Bernstein and Mark Navin, “Governments Should Not Fine Citizens for Vaccine Refusal,” Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace, Public Ethics Blog, January 27, 2022.
Justin Bernstein, Anne Barnhill, and Travis Rieder, “How Should Governments Make COVID-19 Policy?” Philosopher’s Magazine, December 25, 2021.
Travis Rieder, Anne Barnhill, Justin Bernstein, and Brian Hutler. “When to Reopen the Nation is an Ethics Question—Not Only a Scientific One,” Hastings Center Bioethics Forum, April 28, 2020.
- Ezekiel Emanuel and Justin Bernstein. “All Children Should Have to Get a Flu Shot,” The New York Times, March 1, 2018.
Ethics Guidelines and White Papers:
- Justin Bernstein, Brian Hutler, Travis Rieder, Ruth Faden, Hahrie Han, and Anne Barnhill. “An Ethics Framework for the COVID-19 Reopening Process.” (2020, Berman Institute of Bioethics)
- Toner et al., “Interim Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution within the United States,” 2020, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
- Back in America (Podcast), March 4 2021, “Who should get the vaccine first? We didn’t know so we asked a philosopher.” (https://backinamericathepodcast.com/e/who-should-get-the-vaccine-first-we-didn-t-know-so-we-asked-a-philosopher/)
- APA Member Interview, December 2020. (https://blog.apaonline.org/2020/12/04/apa-member-interview-justin-bernstein/?fbclid=IwAR3hVozxKLkpV1HCEpvGN0s2b5uAlJVH–YYa4GNpNn9RMmNf-I0y6IZz1Y)
- “Dialogues, Meditations, and Analyses” with Devin Curry (2020)
“Race, Racisms, and Solidarity”
“Fancy Suits and Moral Failings”
- Johns Hopkins Hub Q&A, May 2020, “The Complex Ethics of Reopening America,” (https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/05/26/ethics-of-reopening-america-social-distancing/)
Papers in Progress (Available upon request)
“Legitimate Actions without the Right to Rule.”
I consider extant views that explain the legitimacy of particular actions in terms of the state’s possession and exercise of a right to rule—what I call the ‘right to rule framework’ (RtRF). I raise three objections to the RtRF. First, I argue that we should not accept, as its proponents often claim, that a state’s right to rule includes the moral power to obligate citizens to obey. Second, I argue that the RtRF struggles to make sense of legitimate actions in illegitimate states. While some would reply that there are no such actions and appeal to the distinction between justification and legitimacy, I reply that such arguments ultimately fail. Third, I argue that appealing to the right to rule struggles to make sense of illegitimate actions in states with the right to rule, or it deprives the right to rule of its explanatory power. Before concluding, I briefly consider what it might look like to revise or abandon the right to rule framework.
“In Defense of Conscious Consumption: Why You Can’t Have Your Steak and Call for Political Action on Climate Change, Too.”
My paper defends the following conditional against two popular lines of objection:
If individuals have moral duties that count in favor of political actions to prevent climate change, those same duties count in favor of (certain forms of) conscious consumption.
The first objection is that you lack an obligation to consciously consume because your choices make no difference to climate change. Given the inefficacy of individual political action, however, I argue ‘no-difference’ objections would show we lack moral obligations to engage in either conscious consumption or political action. The second objection is that we have a second-order duty to help governments reduce emissions, but this second-order duty doesn’t count in favor of conscious consumption. I argue that consumption choices affect social norms, and our second-order duty counts in favor of realizing environmentally better social norms. I illustrate and defend this claim with the case of dietary choice.