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Our Story

Over 40 Years of Philosophy and Public Policy 

The Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, founded in 1976 by Peter Brown and Henry Shue, is one of the oldest research institutions in the United States providing expertise on the normative dimensions of public policy. The Institute works on pressing issues in public policy, including climate change and environmental policy, peace and security, bioethics and emerging technologies,  international human rights, international criminal law, and global demands for justice.  

Our Mission

Policy Innovation through Normative Analysis and Critical Reflection

Since 1976, the mission of the Institute is to create policy innovations through normative analysis and critical reflection; our work engages academics, policy makers, and the public on pressing normative issues in public policy to make a lasting and beneficial impact on society.

In 2011, the Institute moved from the University of Maryland to George Mason University, where it continues its mission in providing policy innovations through normative analysis and critical reflection.

Our Leadership

Pioneers in Public Philosophy

The Institute's leadership has actively pursued the Institute's mission since its founding. The Institute has had seven directors.


Dr. Peter Brown (McGill) 1976–1981

Dr. Henry Shue (Oxford) 1981–1984

Dr. Douglas MacLean (UNC) 1984–1989

Dr. Mark Sagoff (Mason) 1989–1995

Dr. William Galston (Brookings) 1995–2005

Dr. Mark Sagoff  (Mason) 2005–2011

Dr. Andrew Light (Mason) 2011–Present


The Institute has also been a home to over 50 fellows and faculty members, many of whom are pioneers in public policy and the field of public philosophy.

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