The Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (CEPPA) maintains a programme of research projects, seminars, academic visits, fellowships, conferences, and occasional publishing, and also provides a forum for public discussion both within and outwith the University. Its field of interest comprises ethics, social, and political philosophy as well as the ethical and philosophical dimensions of public affairs.
Within the University of St Andrews the Centre has collaborated in events, fellowships and projects with the Schools of Art History, Divinity and History: the first through a conference on Conservation and Restoration in Art and Nature; the second in part through the sponsorship of a parliamentary visiting fellowship; and the third via a conference jointly sponsored with the Institute for Environmental History and held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
It has also maintained several series of public lectures and seminars, the most prominent of these being the annual Sir Malcolm Knox Lecture . This was established with the support of members of the Knox family to memorialise the sometime Professor of Moral Philosophy and Principal of the University, translator of Hegel, friend and literary executor of R.G. Collingwood, and founder of The Philosophical Quarterly. The lecturers to date are all major world figures in the areas of moral, social, and political philosophy, and the lecture series has become one of the leading ones of its sort. Past lecturers are listed on the Knox Lectures page.
The present Centre is continuous with that founded by the University in 1984 under the title of the Centre for Philosophy and Public Affairs (the change of title came in 2001). The original decision to create such a centre represented an aspect of the long-standing commitment of the University of St Andrews to teaching and research in moral philosophy – the subject having been taught in the University since its foundation in 1413. Modelled on similar institutes in North America created in the mid and late 1970s and early 1980s, the Centre is a research unit administratively located within the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies. It is nationally and internationally acknowledged, and its many activities have received significant support from external funding.
The founding members of the Centre for Philosophy and Public Affairs were Anthony Ellis and Gordon Graham and each in turn served as Director. Anthony Ellis subsequently became a member of the Department of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, and Gordon Graham moved to the Regius Chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of Aberdeen. John Haldane was an associated fellow from 1984 and has been the longest serving member of the Centre, having held the Directorship from 1988-2000, and resumed the position in 2002 in succession to David Archard (now of Queen’s University Belfast). John Haldane remains a Senior Fellow of the Centre.
Theron Pummer was Director of the Centre from January 2016 (he and John Haldane co-directed the Centre during autumn semester 2015) to August 2023. In 2016, the Centre launched several Projects, with the aim of advancing thematically focused research and outreach in potentially high impact areas.
Mara van der Lugt has been Director of the Centre since August 2023.