Moralism and Long Game Healthism in Public Health Ethics


Charles Meredith House IHSP seminar room, 1130 avenue des Pins Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1A3, CA

Join us for a talk by John Coggon, Professor of Law and the Philosophy of Public Health, University of Southampton, which is taking place in the Institute for Health and Social Policy seminar room.


Building on evidence concerning the social determinants of health, a growing body of works within public health ethics has developed that sees sound health policy as being founded on concepts of social justice. However, there are scholars who deny the validity of theories that recommend the redistribution of resources with the aim of improving population health. Such protagonists advance arguments on empirical, theoretical, and normative grounds. Within public and political arenas, furthermore, we can observe a dominant position given to individual liberty, and a resistance to coercive policies, which are viewed as ‘nanny-statism’. In parallel with the apparently irresolvable ideological debates, therefore, we find putative middle-way approaches to health policy, such as ‘nudge’. These are given as a theoretically and ethically robust—and practically realisable—means of achieving better health, without offending apparent side-constraints on what constitutes legitimate government activity. With a focus on strategy and practical developments in relation to tobacco regulation, this paper explores political morality in long game health policies. It compares, and draws parallels between, debates on legal moralism and health promotion, and questions why concerns about moralism seem less acute when a goal—say eradication of smoking—is aimed to be achieved over decades, rather than through near-term prohibition.

About the speaker

John Coggon LL.B. Ph.D. is a Professor in Law at Southampton Law School, University of Southampton, UK. He previously held positions as a British Academy postdoctoral fellow, and a Research Fellow, at the University of Manchester, UK. Dr Coggon has teaching and research interests in legal, moral, and political theory, especially as these relate to questions concerning human health and welfare. As well as contributing to core teaching in law, he provides specialist teaching to health care law students in the Law School, and from 2014-15, with Dr A.M. Viens, he is running a course in Public Health, Law, and Ethics on Southampton’s MSc in Public Health. Dr Coggon has published widely in law, ethics, and practitioners’ journals, including the Cambridge Law Journal, the Journal of Medical Ethics, and the British Medical Journal. He is Editor-in-Chief of Health Care Analysis, a journal that seeks to produce critical discourse between philosophy and policy. He is also book review editor for the European Journal of Health Law, and is on the editorial boards of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics and the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. Dr Coggon has co-edited several books, including Simona Giordano, John Coggon, Marco Cappato (eds), Scientific Freedom (London: Bloomsbury, 2012). His leading work is a monograph on public health, ethics, and law, published as a book in 2012: John Coggon, What Makes Health Public? (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

RSVP/Queries to jurgen.dewispelaere [at]

The venue is wheelchair accessible.

* This event is organized by the Institute for Health and Social Policy, with support from the Montreal Health Equity Research Consortium and the Research Group in Health and Law *

Back to top