Ronald SandlerAssociate Professor, Department of Philosophy
Director, Ethics Institute
Northeastern University
371 Holmes Hall
Boston, MA 02115-5000
Tel: (617) 373-3619
Fax: (617) 373-4359

Ronald Sandler is an associate professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, a researcher in the Nanotechnology and Society Research Group, and a research associate in the Environmental Justice Research Collaborative at Northeastern University. His primary areas of research are environmental ethics, ethics and technology, ethical theory, and Spinoza.

Sandler has taught courses on subjects ranging from philosophy of religion to ethics after Darwin and from contemporary moral issues to history of philosophy. He has received Northeastern University’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Recent Publications

Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Technology shapes every aspect of human experience and is the primary driver of social and environmental change. Given this, it is perhaps surprising that so little time is spent studying, analysing and ethically assessing new technologies. Occasionally, an issue attracts public attention – for example, the use of human embryonic stem cells in medical research or the online file sharing of music and movies. However, these are the exceptions. For the most part, each new technology and application is enthusiastically embraced with little critical reflection on how it will impact people’s lives or the world. Moreover, when an issue raised by an emerging technology is attended to, the language, concepts and critical perspectives to properly address it are frequently found to be lacking.

The aim of this textbook is to introduce students and other readers to the ethical issues associated with a broad array of emerging technologies, as well as to help them develop the analytical skills and perspectives necessary for effectively evaluating novel technologies and applications. The technologies discussed include nanotechnology, synthetic biology, robotics, genetic engineering, human enhancement, geoengineering, cultured meat, virtual reality, information technologies, sex selection, and many more.


Designer Biology: The Ethics of Intensively Engineering Biological and Ecological Systems (with John Basl)

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Advances in our scientific understanding and technological power in recent decades have dramatically amplified our capacity to intentionally manipulate complex ecological and biological systems. An implication of this is that biological and ecological problems are increasingly understood and approached from an engineering perspective. In environmental contexts, this is exemplified in the pursuits of geoengineering, designer ecosystems, and conservation cloning. In human health contexts, it is exemplified in the development of synthetic biology, bionanotechnology, and human enhancement technologies. Designer Biology: The Ethics of Intensively Engineering Biological and Ecological Systems consists of thirteen chapters (twelve of them original to the collection) that address the ethical issues raised by technological intervention and design across a broad range of biological and ecological systems. Among the technologies addressed are geoengineering, human enhancement, sex selection, genetic modification, and synthetic biology. The aim of the collection is to advance and enrich our understanding of the ethical issues raised by these technologies, as well as to identify general lessons about the ethics of engineering complex biological and ecological systems that can be applied as new technologies and practices emerge. The insights that emerge will be especially valuable to students and scholars of environmental ethics, bioethics, or technology ethics.


The Ethics of Species: An Introduction

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We are causing species to go extinct at extraordinary rates, altering existing species in unprecedented ways and creating entirely new species. More than ever before, we require an ethic of species to guide our interactions with them. In this book, Ronald L. Sandler examines the value of species and the ethical significance of species boundaries and discusses what these mean for species preservation in the light of global climate change, species engineering and human enhancement. He argues that species possess several varieties of value, but they are not sacred. It is sometimes permissible to alter species, let them go extinct (even when we are a cause of the extinction) and invent new ones. Philosophically rigorous, accessible and illustrated with examples drawn from contemporary science, this book will be of interest to students of philosophy, bioethics, environmental ethics and conservation biology.


Read The Report Here
Nanotechnology: The Social And Ethical Issues

Published by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, this report emphasizes ways in which social and ethical issues intersect with governmental functions and responsibilities, such as science and technology policy, funding and regulation. The report includes a typology of the social and ethical issues associated with nanotechnology, and discusses several specific issues of each type.

Read more about the report here

Selected Publications

Sandler, R., The Ethics of Species (Cambridge University Press, in press).

Sandler, R., ed., Ethics and Emerging Technologies (Palgrave-Macmillan, in press).

Sandler, R., Character and Environment: A Virtue-Oriented Approach to Environmental Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2007).

Sandler, R. and Pezzullo, P., eds., Environmental Justice and Environmentalism: The Social Justice Challenge to the Environmental Movement (MIT Press, 2007).

Sandler, R. and Cafaro, P., eds., Environmental Virtue Ethics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).