Welcome to my site. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at The Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam. Prior to joining the 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 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.

My research and teaching focus on bioethics and political philosophy—especially topics at the intersection of the two.

Much of my recent work has focused on ethical and political questions that arise due to collective action problems related to health, in a very broad sense of ‘related to health.’ Some of this work focuses on particular collective action problems—especially infectious diseases and dietary patterns. For instance, what (if anything) justifies governments in implementing various vaccine mandates, shuttering non-essential businesses, or taxing red meat? What sorts of obligations do individuals have in the face of massive harms like factory farming or outbreaks of infectious diseases? More generally, I’m interested in questions about the connection (or lack thereof) between public health and public goods, what makes public health ethics different from other subfields within bioethics, and how we should integrate theories of justice or legitimacy into thinking about public health, food, and environmental policy.

A longer-term project involves developing a theory of political legitimacy that is especially well-suited to assessing the moral permissibility of particular acts of interpreting, making, or enforcing law by government officials. I contend that state legitimacy is neither necessary nor sufficient for the legitimacy of particular actions. I suggest that once we appreciate this, there’s lots of interesting conceptual space to be explored when theorizing about political morality.

At the VU, I primarily teach bioethics courses for the “Philosophy, Bioethics, and Health” Masters program, which I also coordinate. I also teach in the VU’s PPE program. 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 Philadelphia Futures, where I taught philosophy to high school students.

Below you can find my CV.

If you’d like to reach me, you can email me at j.s.bernstein@vu.nl.

Also, my sense is that it’s somewhat acceptable to put pictures of one’s dog on one’s professional website. So, here’s Cleo.