Dana Kay Nelkin

Professor of Philosophy

About Me


Dana Kay Nelkin (Ph.D. UCLA) is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an Affiliate Professor at the University of San Diego School of Law. Her areas of research include moral psychology, ethics, bioethics, and philosophy of law. She is the author of Making Sense of Freedom and Responsibility (Oxford University Press), and a number of articles on a variety of topics, including self-deception, friendship, the lottery paradox, psychopathy, forgiveness, and praise and blame. She is also a co-editor of the The Ethics and Law of Omissions, The Oxford Handbook of Moral Responsibility, and Forgiveness: New Essays. Her work in moral psychology includes participation in an interdisciplinary research collaboration of philosophers and psychologists, The Moral Judgements Project, which brings together normative and descriptive enquiries about the use of moral principles such as the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing and the Doctrine of Double Effect. Other roles include membership of the advisory board of the UC San Diego Institute for Practical Ethics and service as the North American representative to the Society of Applied Philosophy.

Some Background:

I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and attended college at the University of Texas at Austin where I majored in Philosophy and Plan II (Liberal Arts). I then moved west to attend graduate school in philosophy at UCLA in Los Angeles, where I had a set of wonderful mentors, fellow students and friends from whom I learned a tremendous amount.  While at UCLA, I was also lucky enough to meet my future husband, Sam Rickless. After seven wonderful years there, we took up positions as assistant professors of philosophy at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where our two daughters, Sophie and Alice, were born. Travelling west once again, in 2001, we began our new adventure here in San Diego, where Sam and I joined the philosophy department at UC San Diego. I teach courses in moral psychology, ethics, philosophy of religion, biomedical ethics, philosophy of law, and seminars in a number of areas.  One of my main areas of research is free will and moral responsibility, and I explore their connections to psychology, ethical theory, epistemology, and the law.

For more information, please see the papers and abstracts on my research page, and recent course syllabi on my teaching page.