In today’s politically divisive climate, Intersections on Ethics in the Public Sphere develops tools for constructive reflection and dialogue about controversial public issues. By understanding the moral dimensions of our positions on these issues, we learn how to take action toward the common good.


From climate change and immigration to gun control and sexual harassment, we face many issues that divide us in today’s society. They are often discussed in simplistic terms that reflect opposing positions and prevent members of communities from working together to make positive changes. In reality these issues are complex and nuanced. We may want to take action on these issues, but we may not be sure where to begin, whether it be at the ballot box or Thanksgiving table.

Although these social issues appear quite different from each other, they all involve ethical components: questions about what is morally right and wrong. Ethical reflection is necessary to take action on divisive issues by providing reasoned perspective on our individual purposes and values, and also those of the communities to which we belong. By drawing on 1) philosophical and religious traditions, 2) personal and collective experiences of individuals and institutions, and 3) critical analysis of information on a topic, we can understand points of disagreement on an issue and find a way to connect with each other. This reflection is critical to figuring out what really matters in our world so that we can break out of simplistic dualisms and take meaningful action that moves our communities forward.

First-hand knowledge is the ultimate basis of intellectual life. To a large extent book-learning can never rise to the importance of immediate practice

Alfred North Whitehead


Engaging ethical issues involves three steps:

Understand. Reflect. Act.

By bridging religion and philosophy with information science and journalism, courses and activities in Intersections on Ethics in the Public Sphere introduce students to how to cut through layers to get to the heart of an issue. This involves researching high-quality information (be it an academic paper or social media post), listening to diverse perspectives and experiences, thinking critically about ethical choices and multiple values surrounding an issue, and then developing sound positions and persuasive arguments.

Ethics is about doing as much as it is about understanding. The group supports students to identify, evaluate, and choose activities that will put their ethical understandings into action by working with local organizations that share their commitments. Through volunteer and service opportunities in partnership with the Wanda and David Brown Center for Service and Leadership, students become members of the larger Gainesville community to develop practical and professional skills and see how their own ethical choices and actions can have concrete social impact.

For more information about the variety of issues addressed by the Mellon Intersections Group on Ethics in the Public Sphere, visit:

To stay up to date with Intersections on Ethics in the Public Sphere activities, subscribe to the Public-Ethics-L Listserv HERE.

Upcoming Courses

  • IDS2935 – Ethics in the Public Sphere (Summer 2021, Quest I Course)
  • PHI3650 – Moral Philosophy (Fall 2021) (GenEd-H)
  • POS3606 – American Civil Liberties (Fall 2021) (WR)
  • REL3148 – Religion and Violence (Fall 2021) (GenEd-H/N) (WR)
  • WST3930 – Sexual Ethics (Fall 2021)

Faculty and Doctoral Students

Anna Peterson
Professor, Religion
Jaime Ahlberg
Associate Professor, Philosophy
April Hines
Librarian, Journalism and Mass Communications
Kim Walsh-Childers
Professor, Journalism
Rachel Grant
Assistant Professor, Journalism

Christopher Lomelin
Doctoral Student, Religion

Victoria Machado 
Doctoral Student, Religion