Arthur Applbaum

Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
Professor of Ethics and Public Policy
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Office Address
Mailing Address
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 10
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-495-8058
Fax: 617-495-4297
Email: arthur_applbaum@Harvard.Edu
Don Olander (617-496-3885)
Arthur Applbaum


Arthur Isak Applbaum is Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values. His work on political legitimacy, civil and official disobedience, and role morality has appeared in journals such as Philosophy & Public Affairs, Journal of the American Medical Association, Harvard Law Review, Ethics, and Legal Theory. He is the author of Ethics for Adversaries, a book about the morality of roles in public and professional life. Applbaum has written about the ethics of executioners and of butlers, and he has consulted to the government about the ethics of spies. Recent articles include “Legitimacy without the Duty to Obey” and “Forcing a People to Be Free.” Applbaum recently completed a political philosophy novel for teenagers and hopes to complete a book on political legitimacy for adults soon. He was Acting Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, where he currently directs the undergraduate fellowships in ethics. Applbaum established the core course in political ethics at the Kennedy School, and also teaches the political theory field seminar in the Government Department and a freshman seminar, “What Happened in Montaigne’s Library on the Night of October 23, 1587, and Why Should Political Philosophers Care?” He has been a member of Harvard’s Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility and chairs the ethics advisory board of a stem cell research foundation. Applbaum holds degrees from Princeton and Harvard. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Jerusalem, a Faculty Fellow in Ethics at Harvard, and a Rockefeller Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values.

Faculty of Arts & Sciences Courses



    Freshman Seminar 48k  What Happened in Montaigne's Library on the Night of October 23, 1587, and Why Should Political Philosophers Care?

    Government 94saf  Safra Undergraduate Ethics Fellowship Seminar
    Government 2030  Political Concepts: Field Seminar



  • DPI-218 Principled Disobedience in Democracies

Media Expertise

Arthur Applbaum welcomes media inquiries on the following subjects:

Additional experts may be found by clicking on each subject listed. You may contact faculty directly or if you need assistance contact the Communications Office at 617-495-1115.


For a complete list of faculty citations from 2001 - present, please visit the HKS Faculty Research Connection.

Selected Publication Citations:

  • Academic Journal/Scholarly Articles
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "The Idea of Legitimate Authority in the Practice of Medicine." AMA Journal of Ethics 19.2 (February 2017): 207-213.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Legitimacy without the Duty to Obey." Philosophy & Public Affairs 38.3 (Summer 2010): 215-239.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak, Jon C. Tilburt, Michael T. Collins, and David Wendler. "A Family's Request for Complementary Medicine After Patient Brain Death." JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 299.18 (May 14, 2008): 2188-2193.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Forcing a People to Be Free." Philosophy & Public Affairs 35.4 (Fall 2007): 359-400.
  • Book Chapters
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Political Legitimacy and Official Discretion." Political Accountability: The Library of Contemporary Essays in Political Theory and Public Policy. Ed. Richard Bellamy and Antonino Palumbo. Ashgate, 2010, 39-73.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Professional Detachment: The Executioner of Paris." Public Ethics: The Library of Contemporary Political Theory and Public Policy. Ed. Richard Bellamy and Antonino Palumbo. Ashgate, 2010, 103-131.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. Forcing a People to Be Free. Legitimacy, Justice, and Public International Law. Ed. Lukas H. Meyer. Cambridge University Press, 2009, 270-310.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Martyrdom and Desecration." The Jewish Political Tradition, Vol II. Ed. Michael Walzer, et al. Yale University Press, 2003.
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Failure in the Cybermarketplace of Ideas." Democracy in the Information Age. Ed. Kamarck, Elaine, and Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Brookings Institution, 2002, 17-31.
  • Books
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. Ethics for Adversaries, e-Book Edition. Princeton University Press, 2001.
  • HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "All Foundings Are Forced." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP12-042, September 2012.
  • Research Papers/Reports
    • Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "Legitimacy in a Bastard Kingdom." John F. Kennedy School of Government Center for Public Leadership Working Papers, Spring 2004.

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