Arthur Zitrin Professor of Bioethics; Director for The Center for Bioethics; Affiliated Professor of Philosophy; Environmental Studies; Division of Medical Ethics, School of Medicine; and Global Public Health.
D. Phil 2001, Oxford University; A.B. 1994, Princeton University.
Areas of Research/Interest:
Ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, moral psychology, and bioethics.
Just as a molecular biologist employs a microscope to examine a specimen, Dr. Liao uses the tools of philosophy to study and examine the ramifications of novel biomedical innovations.
A recent presenter at TEDxCERN, Dr. Liao discussed whether it is ethical for someone to erase certain aspects of her memories and how doing so might affect that individual’s identity. Does the individual need to take into account the value of learning from one’s mistakes and the impact that erasing certain memories may have on the greater community? “It’s important to know how to think through bioethical issues critically and find a unique perspective that will move the debate forward.”
The author and an editor of four new books, Dr. Liao provides the academic community with a collection of human rights essays on the most important topics today in The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. In The Right to be Loved, he explores the philosophical foundations underpinning children’s right to be loved, and proposes, among other things, that we reconceptualize our policies concerning adoptions so that individuals who are not romantically linked can co-adopt a child together. Dr. Liao’s other two volumes are Moral Brains: The Neuroscience of Morality and Current Controversies in Bioethics.
As the Director of the Center for Bioethics and Bioethics Master’s Program at the College of Global Public Health, Dr. Liao provides students with an education grounded in a broad conception of bioethics encompassing both medical and environmental ethics. Dr. Liao offers our students the opportunity to explore the intersection of human rights practice with central domains of public health. Dr. Liao, the Arthur Zitrin Professor of Bioethics and an Affiliated Professor in the Department of Philosophy, regularly teaches normative theory and neuroethics. His courses address questions such as how the rightness or wrongness of an act is determined and ethical issues arising out of new medical technologies such as embryonic stem cell research, cloning, artificial reproduction, and genetic engineering; and ethical issues raised by the development and use of neuroscientific technologies such as the ethics of erasing traumatic memories; the ethics of mood and cognitive enhancements; and moral and legal implications of “mind-reading” technologies for brain privacy. The Bioethics MA teaches students “how to build an ethical argument, anticipate objections and know how to respond. Those are transferrable skills that one can use in different careers.” One behalf of the Center for Bioethics, Dr. Liao also regular convenes, for the academic and public community, monthly Bioethics colloquia and annual international conferences, which aim to tackle and address some of the most pressing bioethical issues of the day.
Dr. Liao has given a TED talk in New York and has been featured in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, the BBC, Harper’s Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, Scientific American and other media outlets. In May 2007, he founded Ethics Etc, a group blog for discussing contemporary philosophical issues in ethics and related areas. He is the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Moral Philosophy, a peer-reviewed international journal of moral, political and legal philosophy.
From 2006 to 2009, he was the Deputy Director and James Martin Senior Research Fellow in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University. Before that, Dr. Liao was the Harold T. Shapiro Research Fellow in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University in 2003-2004, and a Greenwall Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and a Visiting Researcher at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University from 2004-2006. He was awarded a Doctorate in Philosophy from University of Oxford and graduated Magnum cum laude with an AB in Politics from Princeton University.
Editor in Chief, Journal of Moral Philosophy, 2013 –
Editorial Board Member, American Journal of Bioethics, 2009 –
Review Board Member, International Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2010 – 2012
Affiliated with other departments or programs
Affiliate Professor of Philosophy; Environmental Studies; and Division of Medical Ethics, Department of Population Health
Books & Edited Volumes:
2016. Current Controversies in Bioethics, (ed.), Routledge, forthcoming, with C. O’Neil
2016. Moral Brains: The Neuroscience of Morality, (ed.), Oxford University Press (link book title to http://amzn.to/2bPO3YW)
2015. The Right to Be Loved. Oxford University Press (link book title to http://amzn.to/2bFyQLb)
2015. The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights, (ed.), Oxford University Press, with R. Cruft and M. Renzo (link book title to http://amzn.to/2bWoTMe)
2008. “The Ethics of Enhancement,” Journal of Applied Philosophy, 25 (3), (ed.) with J. Savulescu and D. Wasserman