David O'Brien

Assistant Professor, Murphy Institute and Department of Philosophy

Director, Center for Ethics and Public Affairs, 2021-2022
Undergraduate Program in Political Economy
Center for Ethics
Office Address
105E Newcomb Hall
David O'Brien


David O’Brien is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and a faculty member at Murphy Institute. In 2022-23 he was Faculty Fellow-in-Residence at the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Professor O'Brien received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and specializes in political philosophy and normative ethics.  His academic interests also include applied ethics, the philosophy of education, and metaethics. 


Selected Publications

  • Equality of opportunity and higher education. In Handbook of Equality of Opportunity, ed. Mitja Sardoc; Springer, Cham. (Springer Major Reference Works series), 1-25 (2023), https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-319-52269-2_91-1.
  • Fairness, care, and abortion. Journal of Applied Philosophy 40(4): 658-675 (2023).
  • Egalitarian machine learning. Res Publica 29(2): 237-264 (2023), https://doi.org/10.1007/s11158-022-09561-4 (with Ben Schwan & Clinton Castro).
  • Children, partiality, and equality. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 23(1): 59-85 (2022).
  • How far can political liberalism support reforms in higher education? Social Theory and Practice 48(4): 713-744 (2022), https://doi.org/10.5840/soctheorpract2022812173.
  • Conservatism reconsidered.’ Journal of the American Philosophical Association 8(1): 149-168 (2022), https://doi.org/10.1017/apa.2020.50.
  • ‘Wrongfulness rewarded? A normative paradox.’ Synthese 199: 6897-6916 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-021-03098-4 (with Ben Schwan).
  • Inequality: do not disperse. Utilitas 33(2): 193-203 (2021).
  • The unit and currency of egalitarian concern.’ Journal of Moral Philosophy 16(5): 613-643 (2019).
  • Egalitarian nonconsequentialism and the levelling down objection. Ratio 32(1): 74-83 (2019).
  • Inequality of opportunity: some lessons from the case of highly selective universities. Theory and Research in Education 15(1): 53-70 (2017).