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.

Cleo was around 1 at the time this picture was taken in the Fall of 2020. Her willingness to pose for photos has not increased since then.

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.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  1. (Anne Barnhill, Justin Bernstein, Ruth Faden, Rebecca McClaren, and Travis Rieder) “You Should Eat Less Beef” Food Ethics (forthcoming).
  2. (first author with Jan Dutkiewicz) “A Public Health Ethics Case for Mitigating Zoonotic Disease Risk in Food Production,” Food Ethics (2021).
  3. “Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Anti-Vaxxers, Fairness, and Anger,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal (2021).
  4. (second author with Pierce Randall). “Reciprocity and the Ethics of Giving During Pandemics” Journal of Social Philosophy, (2021).
  5. (first author with Pierce Randall). “Against the Public Goods Conception of Public Health,” Public Health Ethics (2020).
  6. (second author with Travis Rieder) “The Case for Contributory Ethics: Or, How to Think About Individual Morality in a Time of Global Problems,” Ethics, Policy, and Environment (2020).
  7. 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).
  8. 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).
  9. “The Case Against Libertarian Arguments for Compulsory Vaccination,” Journal of Medical Ethics, (2017).
  10. (second author with C.M.M. Melenovsky) “Why Free Market Rights are not Basic Liberties,” The Journal of Value Inquiry (2015).

Encyclopedia Entries:

  1. Ruth Faden, Justin Bernstein, and Sirine Shebaya, “Public Health Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition).

Book Reviews

  1. (first author with Pierce Randall, forthcoming) “Gregory Pence’s ‘Pandemic Bioethics,'” Bioethics.
  2. (first author with Anne Barnhill). “Bob Fischer’s ‘The Ethics of Eating Animals,'” Ethics (2021). 

Newspapers and Other Media:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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)
  2. Toner et al., “Interim Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution within the United States,” 2020, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

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.