Meetings of 12 to 18 scholars to discuss a particular topic of legal-philosophical interest. Classic readings on the topic are assigned in advance. Roundtables deepen everyone's understanding of the topic and its implications, with the aim of enriching future teaching and scholarship. Past roundtable topics include the tradeoff between welfare and rights; freedom of expression; the nature of rights; hate crime legislation; the moral status of animals, fetuses and infants; moral luck; and the legal treatment of religion and religious arguments.


Meetings at which participants present original papers on a legal-philosophical topic. Papers are typically published in one of USD's scholarly journals, the San Diego Law Review or the Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues. Unlike roundtables, which are intimate and have a limited audience, conferences are open to students, faculty, members of the bench and bar, and interested members of the public. The Institute has sponsored conferences on legal transitions (how law should respond when changes in the laws produce windfalls and wipeouts), on the theory underlying compensatory damages, and on the theory of legal interpretation.

Public Lectures

Lectures feature a noted speaker on a legal-philosophical topic and are open to the general public. The Institute has held public lectures by prominent academics on military intervention in other nations for humanitarian reasons, on the role of moral values in higher education, and on ethics in the adversary system.

Public Debates

Debates between two or more prominent figures on a topic of legal-philosophical interest that are open to the general public. One debate explored the relation between morality and religion; another probed issues at the intersection of neuroscience and the law.