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David K. Chan

Professor and Department Chair This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
University Hall 5002
(205) 934-4805

Pronouns: he/him

Research and Teaching Interests: Ethical Theory, Ethics of War, Medical Ethics, Moral Psychology (particularly, Philosophy of Action, Practical Reasoning)

Office Hours: Not teaching Spring 2023


  • BA (First Class Honors), University of Melbourne, Australia
  • MA, National University of Singapore
  • PhD, Stanford University

I grew up in South-east Asia in the city-state of Singapore. At the age of 19, I went to Australia to study economics at the University of Melbourne. There I experienced kangaroos, Aussie rules ‘footy’, cricket, pub crawls...and philosophy. I took my first philosophy class, reading Plato’s Republic and Descartes’ Discourse on Method, and I never looked back. I added a philosophy major and when I returned to Singapore, I wrote a Master’s thesis at the local university, then applied to graduate schools to earn a doctorate in philosophy. I ended up in ‘laid back’ California at Stanford University in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area where I spent five wonderful years.

I have joined UAB after many years of teaching at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point where I became a ‘Cheesehead’ or Packers fan. (In baseball, I still follow the San Francisco Giants. My most memorable year was 2010 when the Giants won the World Series, and the Packers won the SuperBowl!). Stevens Point is typical small-town America, surrounded by corn fields and dairy farms, and typified by ‘Midwest nice’-ness. Now that I have moved to the hospitable South, not only can I claim to have lived and studied on 3 continents, but I have experienced living in three very different parts of the United States. (I never lived in Europe, but I have done the back-packing thing travelling by train with a copy of Let’s Go Europe!)

UAB is known for medical and health-related studies, and the philosophy department has a tradition in teaching bioethics, and publishing important ethics textbooks. For philosophy majors, the department is able to offer all core areas of philosophy as well as introducing many of the latest topics of philosophical research. I am bringing to UAB new courses in the ethics of war, virtue ethics, and philosophy of action. I will draw on a long professional career and my global experience as I teach classes on these and other subjects in philosophy. I hope students will join me in finding philosophy to be exciting and life-changing.

Scholars @ UAB Profile

  • Research Projects

    I am a moral philosopher doing research on a number of inter-connected questions. The work that I do in normative ethics is to formulate and defend a version of virtue ethics, and to apply the theory to issues in the ethics of war and in medical ethics. In recent times, virtue ethics has enjoyed a resurgence of interest outside of ancient philosophy circles as a rival to utilitarianism and deontological ethics. But there is no consensus among virtue ethicists on a version that can overcome challenges to Aristotle’s account. I have been using my background in the philosophy of action to develop the conceptual foundation in moral psychology for virtue ethics, and I am now working on a neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics that is different from other versions. This project involves examination of what the human good is and how practical wisdom is exercised by virtuous agents in a way that does not depend on the application of rules or the comparison of alternatives in terms of a single value. A central question in virtue ethics that I am interested in concerns what the relation is between human good and happiness.

  • Select Publications


    • Action Reconceptualized: Human Agency and Its Sources (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016)
    • Beyond Just War: A Virtue Ethics Approach (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
    • (Edited volume) Moral Psychology Today: Essays on Values, Rational Choice, and the Will (Dordrecht: Springer, 2008)


    • “Luck, Happiness, and Forrest Gump” in A Critical Companion to Robert Zemeckis, ed. Adam Barkman & Antonio Sanna (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020), pp. 91-102.
    • “The Use of Lethal Drones in the War on Terror” in The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy, ed. David Boonin (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 135-145
    • “Virtue Ethics and Nonviolence” in The Routledge Handbook of Pacifism and Nonviolence, ed. Andrew Fiala (New York: Routledge, 2018), pp. 168-178
    • “The Concept of Human Dignity in the Ethics of Genetic Research,” Bioethics 29:4 (2015), pp. 274-282
    • “Just War, Noncombatant Immunity, and the Concept of Supreme Emergency,” Journal of Military Ethics 11:4 (2012), pp. 273-286
    • “Reasoning without Comparing,” American Philosophical Quarterly 47 (April 2010), pp. 153-164
    • “Wrongful Life, Wrongful Disability, and the Argument Against Cloning” in Ethical Issues in the Life Sciences, ed. Frederick Adams (Bowling Green, OH: Philosophy Documentation Center, 2007), pp. 257-72
    • “Are There Extrinsic Desires?” Nous 38 (June 2004), pp. 326-50
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • University Scholar Award, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
    • Member, American Philosophical Association
    • Executive Committee, North American Society for Social Philosophy
    • Society for Philosophy of Agency
    • Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World
    • Association for Political Theory