Location: Bowdoin / Sarah O'Brien Conly


Sarah O. Conly

Associate Professor of Philosphy
Chair of Philosophy Department

Contact Information


Edward Pols House - 204

Teaching this semester

PHIL 2111. Ancient Philosophy

Sarah Conly
We will read some of the most important works by Plato and Aristotle, two of the greatest western thinkers, and major influences on western thought. Explores questions in ethics, politics, art, psychology, the concept of knowledge, and the nature of reality.

PHIL 3325. Utilitarianism and Its Critics

Sarah Conly
How should we decide what to do? Utilitarianism is the view that the right act is the act that produces the greatest happiness of the greatest number—an appealing view in many respects, since we do want to be happy. However, it doesn’t give much respect to the value of the individual or the value of liberty. Utilitarians argue that happiness is so desirable that it is worth sacrificing these other things. Examines the arguments in the debate between those who value only the maximization of happiness and those who think happiness must sometimes take second place to other things, one of the most important issues in ethics.



  • Ph.D. (Cornell)
  • M.A. (Cornell)
  • B.A. (Princeton)

Current Projects

My new book, One Child:  Do We Have a Right to More, will be out in November, 2015, with Oxford University Press.  In it, I argue  that when human population numbers threaten the environment in profound ways, we have no right to have more than one child.  For this reason, it can be permissible for governments to regulate the number of children we have, as long as they do that in ways that don’t violate rights.

I have four new articles related to paternalism and autonomy appearing in upcoming anthologies:   “Better Off Dead: Paternalism and Persistent Unconsciousness,” in Nudging Health:  Health Law and Behavioral Economics, I. Glenn Cohen and Holly Lynch, eds., Johns Hopkins Press, forthcoming, 2016; “Autonomy and Well-Being,” in Handbook to the Philosophy of Well-being, Guy Fletcher, ed. Routledge, forthcoming, 2015; “Paternalism, Freedom of Choice, and Food,” Handbook of Food Ethics, Anne Barnhill, Tyler Doggett, and Andrew Egan, eds., Oxford University Press; “Paternalism and the Limits of Liberty,” in the Handbook of Libertarianism, Jason Brennan, David Schmidtz, and Bas van der Vossen, eds., Routledge.   I will also have a couple of journal articles appearing in in the Revue Toqueville and the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy.  

I was happy to have the opportunity to edit and introduce a retrospective collection of essays in the journal Ethics, to appear in 2015.

In 2016 I plan to start a new project, probably on privacy.

Recent Publications

Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, Cambridge University Press, 2013
"Three Cheers for the Nanny State," Op-ed, New York Times, March 25, 2013
"Coercive Paternalism in Health Care:  Against Freedom of Choice," Public Health Ethics, vol. 6 #3 (published on line Sept. 2013)
"Against Autonomy: Author Meets Critics: Precis," Journal of Medical Ethics,  on line edition, Dec. 12, 2013
"Against Autonomy: Author Meets Critics: Response," Journal of Medical Ethics, on line edition,  Feb. 14, 2014
"Contre l’Autonomie, French translation of Against Autonomy," Presses de l’Université Laval, tr. Gérald Baril, 2015