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Tanner Lectures

Lecture room

Photo by Christine Baker

The Center for Ethics in Society collaborates with the Office of the President to host the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford.

The Tanner Lectures were established by the late American scholar, industrialist and philanthropist Obert Clark Tanner. In creating the lectureships, Tanner said, "I hope these lectures will contribute to the intellectual and moral life of mankind. I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behavior and human values. This understanding may be pursued for its own intrinsic worth, but it may also eventually have practical consequences for the quality of personal and social life."

Stanford is proud to be one of the nine distinguished universities to host the Tanner Lectures. The Tanner lectureships, which are comprised of annual lectures and seminars, are held at Cambridge, Harvard, Michigan, Oxford, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, the University of California and the University of Utah.

The purpose of the Tanner Lectures is to advance and reflect upon scholarly and scientific learning relating to human values. This intention embraces the entire range of values pertinent to the human condition, interest, behavior and aspiration. The lectures are published in an annual volume.

Appointment as a Tanner lecturer is in recognition for uncommon achievement and outstanding abilities in the field of human values. The lecturers themselves come from the fields of philosophy, religion, the humanities, sciences, creative arts and learned professions — or from leadership in public or private affairs. The lectureships are international and intercultural and transcend ethnic, national, religious and ideological distinctions. Past Tanner lecturers at Stanford include: Seth Lazar, Andrew Bacevich, Danielle Allen, Jared Diamond, Dorothy Allison, Paul Krugman, Mary Robinson, Harry Frankfurt, Avishai Margalit, David Brion Davis and Glenn Loury.  

All Past Lectures

2023-2024 Tanner Lectures: Stereotypes, Race, and Resistance: A Political Ethics of Belief

In the United States and across the globe, racial stereotypes remain a serious social problem, with no easy solution. The members of disadvantaged racial groups navigate a social world with these stigmatizing assumptions hanging over them, sometimes threatening their very self-concept. Focusing on the Black experience in America, these lectures aim to identify the distinctive moral wrongs that such stereotypes represent and to explain why a “political ethics of belief” must be among the remedies. The lectures also scrutinize a time-honored mode of resistance to racial stereotypes in the Black political tradition (a kind of group uplift through public image management), highlighting its limits and perils, but also its lamentable indispensability.

Our 2023-24 Tanner Lectures were given by Tommie Shelby. Shelby is the Lee Simpkins Family Professor of Arts and Sciences and Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University. Shelby’s most recent book is The Idea of Prison Abolition (Princeton University Press, 2022), which is based on his 2018 Carl G. Hempel Lectures at Princeton University. The book was co-winner of the Easton Award from the Foundations of Political Thought section of the American Political Science Association.

Shelby’s writings focus on racial justice, economic justice, and criminal justice and on the history of black political thought. His numerous articles have appeared in journals such as Philosophy & Public Affairs, Ethics, Political Theory, Critical Inquiry, Du Bois Review, Critical Philosophy of Race, and Daedalus. He has also contributed to The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Boston Review, The Root, Jacobin, The Point, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The overall title of the 2023-24 Tanner Lectures was “Stereotypes, Race, and Resistance: A Political Ethics of Belief." Lecture 1, titled "How Racial Stereotypes Wrong" took place on Wednesday, November 1. Lecture 2, titled "Resisting Racial Stereotypes," took place on Thursday, November 2. A discussion seminar that focuses on both lectures took place on Friday, November 3.

Event Details

  • November 1st, 5-7 p.m. Encina Hall, Bechtel Conference Center Main Hall 
    • “How Racial Stereotypes Wrong”
    • Commentator: Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYU
  • November 2nd, 5-7 p.m. Encina Hall, Bechtel Conference Center Main Hall
    • “Resisting Racial Stereotypes”
    • Commentator: Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard
  • November 3rd, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Encina Hall, Oksenberg Room (3rd Floor)
    • Discussion Seminar
    • Commentators: Lerone A. Martin, Stanford & Brian Lowery, Stanford

The Tanner Lectures are co-sponsored with the Office of the President. 

Commentator Bios:

Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at New York University in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School. He has written widely in the philosophy of mind and language, ethics and political philosophy, and the philosophy of art, of culture, and of the social sciences; as well as in literary studies, where he focuses on African and African-American literature and literary theory. His publications include Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity (Harvard, 2014) and The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity (Norton, 2018).

Jennifer Hochschild is H. L. Jayne Professor of Government, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. She was Chair of Harvard’s Government Department, 2016-2019, and President of the American Political Science Association, 2016-2017. Her research addresses race/class intersectionality in American public policy, and the politics and policies around genomic science in the U.S., Great Britain, and Germany. Books include Genomic Politics (Oxford U. Press, 2021) and Do Facts Matter: Information and Misinformation in American Politics (co-authored, U. of Oklahoma Press, 2015).

Lerone A. Martin is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor in Religious Studies and Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. Martin is an award-winning author whose most recent book, The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism, was published in February 2023 by Princeton University Press.

Brian Lowery is the Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior, and was recently named founding co-director of Stanford's new Institute on Race. Lowery’s research examines the reality that others shape our selves and we shape theirs, exploring issues ranging from the nature of racial and gender identities to an understanding of how others help us generate meaning in life. His latest book is Selfless: The Social Creation of “You” (Harper 2023), and he hosts a podcast, Know What You See.

Past Events

Date
Friday, November 3, 2023, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Location:
Encina Hall
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Bechtel Conference Center (Nov 1 & 2); Oksenberg Room (Nov 3)
Date
Thursday, January 26, 2023, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Location:
Gates Computer Science Building
353 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Date
Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 5:00pm - 6:45pm
Location:
Gates Computer Science Building
353 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Date
Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 5:00pm - 6:45pm
Location:
Gates Computer Science Building
353 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Date
Thursday, May 12, 2022, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Location:
Encina Hall, Oksenberg Room (3rd floor)
Date
Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 5:00pm - 6:45pm
Location:
ENCINA HALL, BECHTEL CONFERENCE CENTER
Date
Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 5:00pm - 6:45pm
Location:
ENCINA HALL, BECHTEL CONFERENCE CENTER
Date
Thursday, March 3, 2022, 10:00am
Location:
Denning House, Room 201. 580 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Date
Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 5:00pm
Location:
Denning House, Room 210. 580 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Date
Tuesday, March 1, 2022, 5:00pm
Location:
Denning House, Room 210. 580 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305.