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Ethics Group

Cal Poly's Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group focuses on the implications and impact of emerging sciences and technologies.
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David J. Zoller

Assistant Professor

Ethics Bowl Coordinator


  • Continental philosophy
  • Collective responsibility
  • Moral perception
  • Intersection of continental and analytic moral theory
  • History of philosophy

Contact Information

About David J. Zoller

My research interests include:

  1. Applied work on global justice and the scope of individual moral obligations in a global society
  2. Theoretical work on the phenomenology of moral perception and analysis of moral discourse

Given that we are limited and finite reasoners, we might expect that there are corresponding limits on how much of the world we can be morally obligated to pay attention to. On the other hand, it is equally possible that economic integration and technology have shrunk the world in ways that greatly expand what a person ought to have on her conscience at every moment.

Perhaps none of us have merely local or personal moral situations anymore. At the same time, it seems strange to say that a distant crisis should be a major factor in my everyday moral decision-making just because I’ve read a brief online post about it. 

Faced with a flood of moral information, individuals need ways to sort out not just which crisis gets priority, but what they are obligated to pay attention to within the limits of their cognitive capabilities. I view this as raising very classical questions about what it means to be human, which philosophy has dealt with at least since Plato: should we locate ourselves in the world according to our immediate perceptions and our bodies, or does being human mean transcending what we can immediately see and taste and feel? Is the latter possible for embodied, local minds? Where is a human being located, so to speak? My current research addresses the limits of moral and political regard principally using classical work on human attention from the phenomenological tradition. I put special emphasis on bringing together resources from continental philosophy with problems and theory in analytic ethics.


  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Fordham University (2011)
  • M.A., Philosophy, Fordham University (2006)
  • B.A., Classics/Philosophy, Xavier University (2003)

Courses Taught

  • PHIL 231: Philosophical Classics: Ethics and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 285: Ethics Bowl
  • PHIL 309: Early Greek Philosophy
  • PHIL 311: Greek Philosophy
  • PHIL 316: 20th Century Continental Philosophy
  • PHIL 331: Ethics
  • PHIL 335: Social Ethics
  • PHIL 343: Continental Political Philosophy

Selected Publications

  • “Moral Responsibility for Distant Collective Harms.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (February 18, 2015).
  • “Distributing Collective Moral Responsibility to Group Members.” Journal of Social Philosophy 45:4 (Winter 2014): 478-497.
  • “Realism and Belief Attribution in Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religion.” Continental Philosophy Review 45:1 (2012): 101-120.

Selected Presentations

  • “Was Heidegger a Moral Particularist? Formal Indication and the Place of Moral Principles.” Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (October 2015), Atlanta, GA.
  • “Why You are Almost Certainly Responsible for Unstructured Collective Harms.” Collective Intentionality IX (September 10-13, 2014), Bloomington, IN
  • “Narrative ‘Ain’t Just in the Head’: Externalism and the Social Coherence of Life,” Society for Ricoeur Studies Annual Conference (November 2010), Montreal, Canada.
  • “Phenomenological Perspectives on Collective Responsibility: Heidegger and Schutz.” Annual Conference of The Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (October 29-31, 2009), Arlington, VA.
  • “Heidegger and the Intentionality of a Culture.” 3rd Annual Philosophical Red Star Line Conference (March 19-22, 2009), Antwerp, Belgium.
  • “Memory and the Cosmic Imagination: Reading Plato’s Timaeus with Paul Ricoeur.” 1st Annual Conference of the Society for Ricoeur Studies (November 7-8, 2007), Chicago, IL.

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