Daniel Jacobson
Director • Bruce D. Benson Professor of Philosophy
Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization

Kittredge Central N226

Daniel Jacobson works on a range of topics in ethics, moral psychology, aesthetics, and the moral and political philosophy of J. S. Mill. He has published extensively on issues concerning sentimentalism, the philosophy of emotion, and freedom of speech. Jacobson has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, and the Princeton University Center for Human Values. He founded and headed the Freedom and Flourishing Project, which is dedicated to exploring and developing the classical liberal tradition, defending freedom of speech, and increasing political diversity in academia. 

Jacobson was Project Leader of The Science of Ethics, a three-year project funded by the John Templeton Foundation. His essay, “Utilitarianism without Consequentialism: The Case of John Stuart Mill,” was chosen by The Philosophers’ Annual as one of the ten best philosophy articles published in 2008. Jacobson is co-editor (with Justin D’Arms) of the volume, Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics (Oxford University Press). Jacobson and D’Arms are currently working on a collaborative book project, Rational Sentimentalism, and have published a series of articles developing their view. Professor Jacobson holds a PhD from the University of Michigan and a BA from Yale University.

Professor Jacobson was interviewed in November 2020 for the CU Connections Newsletter. Read the interview here. 

Recent Activities and Publications

May 2021 Member, Academic Freedom Alliance 

May 4, 2021 Cambridge University Press |Social Philosophy and Policy | A Defense of Mill's Argument for the "Practical Inseparabiilty" of the Liberties of Conscience (and the Absolutism it Entails)

Mill advocated an unqualified defense of the liberty of conscience in the most comprehensive sense, which he understood to include not just the freedom to hold but also to express any opinion or sentiment. Yet considerable dispute persists about the nature of Mill’s argument for freedom of expression and whether his premises can support so strong a conclusion. Two prominent interpretations of Mill that threaten to undermine his uncompromising defense of free speech are considered and refuted. A better interpretation can be founded on Mill’s claim that the liberties of conscience are inseparable in practice. This claim can be defended with modern psychological insight about the nature of cognitive bias, and epistemological insight about why justification of creedal beliefs requires the universal toleration of opinion, insights which are largely anticipated by Mill. This argument is especially vital because it highlights the divide between classical liberalism and progressivism that has become a flashpoint in the current political debate over free speech.

March 25, 2021 Stanford Graduate School of Business | Classical Liberalism Seminar | Mill Does Not Have A Harm Principle (and Why it Matters for Liberalism) 

March 9, 2021 University o|f Michigan | Public Lecture | "John Stuart Mill Does Not Have a Harm Principle"

October 12, 2020 | Philanthropy Roundtable Interview | Daniel Jacobson on the Idea of Merit and Meritocracy

September 18, 2019 | University of Colorado Boulder | Public Lecture | "Freedom of Speech and Harmful Speech -- Lessons from Mill"