Seana Valentine Shiffrin
|Institutions||UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard Law School, Oxford University|
|Doctoral advisor||G. A. Cohen|
|Legal philosophy, moral philosophy, political philosophy|
Seana Valentine Shiffrin is Professor of Philosophy and Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of California, Los Angeles. Shiffrin's work has been widely influential and spans issues in moral, political and legal philosophy, as well as matters of legal doctrine, that concern equality, autonomy and the social conditions for their realization. Shiffrin's recent work has primarily focused on freedom of speech, truth-telling, promising, and the place of the law in building moral character. She is an associate editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs. and was elected a Fellow of the American Academic of Arts and Sciences in 2010.
Shiffrin received her B.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988, winning the University Medal. As a Marshall Scholar, she went on to obtain a B.Phil., with distinction, from University College, Oxford, in 1990, a D.Phil in philosophy at Oxford University in 1993 under the supervision of G. A. Cohen, and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1996.
She is winner of the Fred Berger Memorial Prize in Philosophy of Law in 2002 for her widely cited article, "Paternalism, Unconscionability, and Accommodation". She was also the Hempel Lecturer at Princeton University in 2012.
Her first book, Speech Matters: On Morality, Lying and the Law, appeared in 2014 from Princeton University Press.
Shiffrin argues that although liberalism may preclude legal enforcement of morality for its own sake, the law cannot be indifferent to morality but must promote the social conditions of fostering and sustaining moral agency and moral deliberation. A connected theme she emphasizes is the role of equality and equal social relationships in rendering individual autonomy possible and meaningful. She has pursued these themes predominately through her non-conventionalist account of promising, her controversial argument that contract law should be more sensitive to its relationship to the moral practice of promising, her critique of luck-egalitarian conceptions of egalitarianism as incompatible with liberal freedoms that require accommodation practices, and also through the development of her thinker-based theory of freedom of speech. She is also cited for her critique of Lockean arguments for intellectual property, for her efforts to develop a non-comparative alternative theory of harm, and for her argument that the federal law authorizing exploitative penalty fees for minor breaches of credit card contracts violates constitutional due process guarantees against disproportionate punitive damages.