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Carl Cohen is Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michiganmarker, in Ann Arbor, Michiganmarker, USA. He is co-author of "The Animal Rights Debate" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001), a point-counterpoint volume with Prof. Tom Regan; he is also the author of "Democracy" (Macmillan, 1972); the author of "Four Systems" (Random House, 1982); the editor of "Communism, Fascism, and Democracy" (McGraw Hill, 1997); the co-author (with J. Sterba) of "Affirmative Action and Racial Preference" (Oxford, 2003), and co-author (with I. M. Copi) of "Introduction to Logic, 13th edition" (Prentice-Hall, 2008).

He has published many essays in moral and political philosophy in philosophical, medical, and legal journals. He has served as a member of the Medical School faculty of the University of Michigan, and as Chairman of the University of Michigan faculty, where he has been an active member of the philosophy faculty since 1955.

Political activism and historical influence

In 1996, Cohen made public information he had gathered using the State of Michigan's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about the substantial weight of racial factors in the University of Michigan undergraduate admissions office use of a "grid system". Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher sued the University based on this data. Barbara Grutter, in a separate proceeding, sued the Law School of the University of Michigan relying on additional data also revealed by Cohen's FOIA inquiry. While the U-M changed its "grid system" to a "point system" the following year, it argued that both mechanical systems were identical in outcome and that the point system, which became more famous, was designed merely to be easier to understand. The system that Cohen made public was ruled unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court [in Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003] as a "mechanical system," although in a separate ruling concerning the U-M Law School [Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003], the limited use of non-mechanical preferences was allowed.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on June 23, 2003, Cohen, Gratz, Grutter, and others were among those who invited Ward Connerly to Michigan, where he appeared in a July 8, 2003 speech on the Michigan campus announcing the formation of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), to forbid preference by race or nationality in the state. This became Proposition 2 (06-2) in Michigan, appearing on the November 8, 2006 ballot. Cohen was a leading spokesperson for Proposition 2 in a heated electoral campaign. Proposition 2 passed by a 58% - 42% margin. As a result of Cohen's involvement in the issue, he has appeared on numerous panels and in media reports on racial preferences since the mid-1990s.

During the years 1964-67 Cohen, then an Associate Prof. of Philosophy, was an active member of the small planning committee for the Residential College of the University of Michigan. He became the principal author of the "Blue Book" which laid the intellectual foundations for the Residential College. When the Residential College opened in 1967 Cohen became a full-time member of its faculty, and his appointment was shifted from the Department of Philosophy to the Residential College, where he remains the only one of that founding group serving as an active member of the Michigan faculty.

In 1998 anonymous donations totaling some $13,000 were made to the University to name a reading room in the Residential College in Cohen's honor. This was done; a plaque honoring him was placed. It was removed shortly afterwards, however, the reason given being "procedural violations." Many in the University believed that Cohen was being discriminated against because of his outspoken and unpopular opposition to the race-conscious admissions system of the University. Senior members of the Law School faculty, and other faculties, who did not agree with Cohen's views on the admissions matter, nevertheless wrote angrily to the President, Lee Bollinger, in the conviction that technical violations of procedure were being arbitrarily invoked against him, and that the reputation of the University had been besmirched. The President agreed to replace the plaque and to reaffirm the name of the Reading Room; Cohen agreed that his own donation of $10,000 to the University for the room be made public.

Cohen is a tenured professor who has been a member of the U-M faculty since 1955. In 2006 the University held a celebration honoring his 50 years on the faculty. He has been a lifetime activist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), serving as Chair of the Michigan affiliate of the ACLU, and for years as a member of the National Board of Directors of the ACLU.

When the American Nazi Party threatened, in 1978, to march in Skokie, Illinois, Cohen published (in The Nation to which he was a regular contributor) several widely reprinted essays defending the right to present publicly even the most abhorrent political views. [See: "The Extreme Test of Free Speech," The Nation, 15 April 1978] When (as a part of the protest against the war in Viet Nam) efforts were made to forbid research of certain kinds on the U-M campus, Cohen strongly supported the freedom of faculty members to engage in the inquiries that they thought appropriate. During that war Cohen, in active protest, defended selective conscientious objection [See: "The Case for Selective Pacifism," The Nation, 8 July 1968], and defended some, but not all, civil disobedience. [See: "Civil Disobedience and the Law," Rutgers Law Review, Fall, 1966.] When University administrators sought to censor the showing of sexually explicit films on campus, Cohen, then serving as Chair of the University faculty, strongly defended student freedoms before the Regents of the University, with ultimate success. In the mid-1970s, when the fear of misuse led some to oppose the continuation of research in recombinant DNA technology, Cohen defended such research vigorously, both on the Michigan campus and also in The New England Journal of Medicine ["When May Research Be Stopped?" NEJM 26 May 1977.]

Cohen maintains his membership in the ACLU despite his disagreement with the organization's support of race preferences in university admissions. References: open letter from Cohen to Michigan ACLU President Kary Moss.

From 1985 to 1995 a fraction of Cohen's appointment was in the Medical School of the University of Michigan, where he served as Professor of Philosophy and as Director of the Program in Human Values in Medicine. There he served also as a founding member of the Michigan Medical Center's Ethics Committee, as a member of its Animal Care and Use Committee, and for more than 30 years, as a member of its Institutional Review Board (IRB). Cohen's involvement with research on humans led to reflections on the uses of animals in science, which he defends [See: "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research," New England Journal of Medicine, 2 October 1986]; and on the limited uses of prisoners as research subjects, which he also defends [see: "Medical Experimentation on Prisoners," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Spring, 1978]; on ethical issues in transplant medicine [See: "Alcoholics and Liver Transplantation," Journal of the American Medical Association, 13 March 1991); and on abortion (See: "How Not to Argue about Abortion, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Fall, 1990).

Having written much about the concept of justice, Cohen became involved, during the 1970s, in the process of Labor/Management arbitration. With the support of the late Prof. William Haber (Economics, U-M), a well-known arbitrator, Cohen became a member of the Labor Panel of the American Arbitration Association, and over the years has issued many arbitration awards in many industries. Cohen remains an active arbitrator for the AAA, and also an Act 312 Arbitrator, and Grievance Arbitrator, for the State of Michigan.



The Detroit Free Press, p. 13A

19 June 1992

The Case for Federalism in Organ Sharing

published by the Transplant Policy Center, Ann Arbor, MI


A Critique of the Alleged Moral Basis of Vegetarianism

Food for Thought


A Very Bad Compromise

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Spring, 1997

About Personal Consequences in the Academy When a Professor Opposes Racial Preferences

Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 34

Winter, 2002

Accusations of Racism

The University Record, Ann Arbor

26 April 1993

Affirmative Action and Diversity

Commentary, Volume 117, No. 1

January 2004

Affirmative Action and Racial Preference at the University of Michigan

Declining Standards at Michigan Public Universities, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy

February 1997

Affirmative Action and the Rights of the Majority

Minorities, Charles Fried, ed., Dahlem Konferenzen Springer Verlag, N.Y., Tokyo, Berlin


Affirmative Action in Medical School Admissions

Troubling Problems in Medical Ethics , Alan R. Liss, N.Y.,


Alcoholics and Liver Transplantation

Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 265, No. 10, pp. 1299-1301

13 March 1991

An Ethical Perspective on Animal Research

Journal of the American Veterinary Association, Vol. 206, No. 4

15 February 1995

Anencephalic Infants as Sources of Transplantable Organs

Hastings Center Report, pp. 28-30

October/November 1988

Animal Experimentation Defended

The Importance of Animal Experimentation for Safety and Biomedical Research, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp. 7-16


Citizenship and Obedience: Tangled Obligations

The Nation, Vol. 211, No. 9

September 28, 1970

Civil Disobedience and the Law

Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 21, No. 1

Fall 1966

Civil Disobedience: Moral or Not?

The Nation, Vol. 207, No. 19

December 2, 1968

Concerning Hopwood: A Reply to My Critics

Commentary, Vol. 102, No. 2

August 1996

Conscientious Objection

Ethics, Vol. 78, No. 4

July 1968

Criminal Responsibility and the Knowledge of Right and Wrong

University of Miami Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 1

Fall 1959

Democracy and Its Economic Conditions

Proceedings, Thirteenth International Congress of Philosophy, Mexico City


Democracy and the Curriculum

The Nation, Vol. 208, No. 11

March 17, 1969

Democracy in Israel

The Nation, Vol. 219, No. 2

July 20, 1974

Discrimination and Reverse Discrimination

Law and Philosophy, Vol. 5, p. 135


Divestiture and Apartheid

LSA Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 2, Ann Arbor

Winter 1980

Do Animals Have Rights?

Ethics and Behavior, Harvard University, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 91-102


Equality, Diversity, and Good Faith

Wayne Law Review, Vol. 26, No. 4

July 1980

Ethical Aspects of Animal Research

in The Role of the Chimpanzee in Research G. Eder, E. Kaiser, and F.A. King, eds., Karger Pub.. Basel


Ethnic Justice, Individual Rights

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. XII, No. 1

March 1, 1976

Fairness in Housing

Testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate; published in Hearings on the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Washington, D.C., 1979, pp. 458-495 Washington, D.C.,

September 17, 1979

Fears of Human Cloning are Without Merit

The Detroit News

4 March 1998

Free Speech and Political Extremism: How Nasty Are We Free To Be?

Law and Philosophy 7, pp. 263-279


Honorable Ends, Unsavory Means: Preferential Admission in Higher Education

Civil Liberties Review, Vol. 2, No. 2,

Spring 1975

How Much Democracy for the University?

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. XI, No. 5

October 14, 1975

How Not to Argue about Abortion

Michigan Quarterly Review, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 567-583

Fall, 1990

How Should We Decide Who Should Decide What Comes Before What?

Ethical Theory and Business, Beauchamp & Bowie, eds., Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs


Introduction to John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899-1924 Volume 15: 1923-1924

J. A. Boydston, ed., So. Illinois University Press, Carbondale


Is Affirmative Action on the Way Out?

Commentary, Vol. 195, No. 3

March 1998

Justice Debased: The Weber Decision

Commentary, Vol. 68, No. 3, pp. 43-53

September 1979

Law, Speech, and Disobedience

The Nation, Vol. 202, No. 13

March 28, 1966

Medical Experimentation on Prisoners

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Vol. 21, No. 3,

Spring 1978

Militant Morality: Civil Disobedience and Bioethics

Hastings Center Report, Vol 19, No. 6

November 1989

Moral Issues in Medical Experimentation on Humans

Philosophic Exchange, Vol. 2, No. 5; Center for Philosophic Exchange, State University of New York at Brockport, N.Y.,

Summer 1979

Naked Racial Preference

Commentary, Vol. 81, No. 3

March 1986

Natural and Non-Natural Qualities

The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 55, No. 10

May 8, 1958

Naturalism and the Method of Verstehen

The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 51, No. 7

April 1, 1954

On The Child's Status in the Democratic State

Political Theory, Vol. 3, No. 4

November 1975

On the Ethics of Institutions

Ethics and the Campus, B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation, Washington D.C.,


On the Quality of Life

Circulation, Vol. 66, No. 5; American Heart Association Monograph No. 92

November 1982

On the Right of the Patient to Know

Ethics, Humanism, and Medicine, M.D. Basson, ed., Alan R. Liss, Inc., N.Y.


Philosophical Issues in Regulating Biotechnology

Testimony in Proceedings of the Subcommittee on Technology, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives

6 December 1991

Philosophical Reflections on the Impact of Coronary Artery Surgery on Patients' Quality of Life

Quality of Life and Cardiovascular Care Vol. 1, No. 5;

May 1985

Philosophy and Public Policy

Working Papers The Rockefeller Foundation New York


Political Controversy and the University

Public Policy in the 1980s, Southern University Conference Proceedings, N. R. Berte, ed., Savannah


Politically Correct Language

The Detroit News, p. 15A

14 November 1991

Preference by Race in University Admissions and the Quest for Diversity

The Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law, Vol 54, 1998, Washington University School of Law


Preference by Race is Neither Just nor Wise

Philosophic Exchange, State University of New York at Brockport


Private Groups vs. Social Justice: The Freedom to be Bad

The Nation, Vol. 216, No. 4

January 22, 1973

Procreation After Death or Mental Incompetence

Fertility and Sterility, Vol. 66, No. 6

December 1996

Punishment by Conscription

The Nation, Vol. 201, No. 22

December 27, 1965

Race and Equal Protection of the Laws

Lincoln Law Review, Vol. X, No. 2

Fall 1977

Race and the Constitution

The Nation, Vol. 220, No. 5

February 8, 1975

Race in University Admissions

The University of Michigan Record, Vol. 52, No. 2

25 February 1997

Race Preference and the Universities - A Final Reckoning?

Commentary, Vol. 112, No.2

September 2001

Race, Lies, and Hopwood

Commentary, Vol. 101, No. 6

June 1996

Racial Preference is Dynamite

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. XIV, No. 10

May 2, 1977

Revolution and Copernican Revolutions

Science and Society, N. H. Steneck, ed., University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor


Sex, Birth Control, and Human Life

Ethics, Vol. 79, No. 4

July 1969

Some Implications of Control

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Technology and Political Freedom

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March 1985

Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives

June-July 1996

The Abuse of Morality: How Not to be Good

Moral Values in Contemporary Public Life, Marquette University, Milwaukee


The Case Against Group Libel

The Nation, Vol. 226, No. 24

June 24, 1978

The Case for Presumed Consent to Transplant Human Organs After Death

Transplantation Proceedings, Vol. 24, No. 5 pp. 2168-2172

October 1992

The Case for Selective Pacifism

The Nation, Vol. 207, No. 1

July 8, 1968

The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research

New England Journal of Medicine 315: 865-870

October 2, 1986

The Corruption that Is Group Preference

Academic Questions

Summer 1998

The Dangers of Inquiry and the Burden of Proof

Southern California Law Review, Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 1081-1113

September 1978

The Equal Protection of the Laws

The Detroit News

28 December 1997

The Ethics of Civil Disobedience

The Nation, vol. 198, No. 12

March 16, 1964

The Extreme Test of Free Speech

The Nation, Vol. 226, No. 14

April 15, 1978

The Health of the American Democratic System

Proceedings, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, New York

June 1974

The Justification of Democracy

The Monist, Vol. 55, No. 1

January 1971

The Morality of Transplantation

Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 266, No. 2, pp. 213-214

10 July 1991

The Penalty of Preference

The Michigan Daily, Ann Arbor

23 October 1992

The Poverty of a Dialogue

Problems of Communism, vol. XIII

Sept.-Oct. 1964

The Right of Privacy

The Nation, Vol. 212, No. 8

February 22, 1971

The ROTC and the University

The Michigan Alumnus, Ann Arbor

September 1979

The Uses of Race in Admission under Regents v. Bakke

The Journal of Law in Society, volume 1, no. 1, Wayne State University Law School, Detroit

Winter, 1999

The Village of Skokie vs. Carl Cohen: An Exchange

The Nation, Vol. 226, No. 17

May 6, 1978

Three Tests for an Electorate

The New York Times (Op-Ed)

November 4, 1970

Treating Animals Humanely; Obligations, Not Rights

The National Law Journal

12 August 2002

Universities Abuse Admissions Powers

The Detroit News, Op-Ed

31 March 1996

University Policy on Discriminatory Harassment

The University Record, Ann Arbor

9 November 1992

What is the Difference between an HIV and a CBC?

Hastings Center Report, pp. 18-20

August/September 1988

What Transplantation Can Teach Us about Health Care Reform

The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 330: 858-6

24 March 1994

What, in Our House?

The Nation, Vol. 217, No. 21

December 17, 1973

When May Research Be Stopped?

The New England Journal of Medicine, 296:1203-1210

May 26, 1977

Which Way is Left?

The Yale Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 4

Summer 1969

Who Are Equals?

The National Forum, Vol. 58, No 1

Winter 1978

Who's to the Left? What's to the Right?

Rackham Reports, Graduate School of Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Vol. 9, No. 1

Spring 1983

Why Racial Preference is Illegal and Immoral

Commentary, Vol. 67, No. 6, pp. 40-52

June 1979

Winks, Nods, Disguises - and Racial Preference

Commentary, Volume 116, No. 2

September 2003


Affirmative Action and Racial Preference

Oxford University Press, NY and London


Civil Disobedience: Conscience, Tactics, and the Law

Columbia University Press, N.Y


Communism, Fascism and Democracy: The Theoretical Foundations

McGraw-Hill, N.Y



University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1971 The Free Press, Macmillan, N.Y., 1973


Four Systems

Random House, N.Y.,


Introduction to Logic

Prentice-Hall, New York, London


Introduction to Logic

Prentice-Hall, New York, London


Naked Racial Preference:The Case Against Affirmative Action

Madison Books, Rowman and Littlefield NY, London


On Rule by the People

Beijing, The Commercial Press


The Animal Rights Debate

Rowman & Littlefield, NY, London


See also

External links

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