Student Spotlight: Anthony Sangiuliano

Anthony Sangiuliano

August 23, 2021

Anthony Sangiuliano is a doctoral candidate in philosophy from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. After attending the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School, he chose to pursue further study at Cornell for the strength and interdisciplinarity of the philosophy program.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

My dissertation develops a philosophical interpretation of anti-discrimination law by examining the relationship between the morality and the law of anti-discrimination. Most philosophers assume that the law’s purpose is to prohibit discriminatory acts that are inherently morally wrongful. I think this is a mistake. I argue that the law’s purpose is to achieve a sociopolitical goal that is legitimate for the state to pursue, and it prohibits discriminatory acts when doing so, and promotes this goal regardless of whether those acts are morally wrong. I call this theory “anti-discrimination law as public law.”

What are the larger implications of this research?

The particular sociopolitical goal I argue that the law aims to realize is what American jurists call “anti-subordination.” Uncovering the moral foundations of this concept helps orient efforts of legal practitioners and political representatives to reform existing anti-discrimination law. For example, existing law relies on individual victims of discrimination to bring lawsuits in court as the mechanism for its enforcement. But my account recommends alternative mechanisms that shift the onus of enforcement onto government agencies to remedy discrimination because these would more effectively achieve the goal of anti-subordination. 

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

When I studied and practiced law before attending Cornell, I was struck by how anti-discrimination law is at once regarded as one of the crowning achievements of modern, enlightened legal systems while still being subject to seemingly intractable legal and political controversy. I came to believe that public discourse around anti-discrimination law could stand to benefit from deeper philosophical reflection on its moral foundations. So, I wanted to focus my dissertation research on anti-discrimination law in order to understand how to best to navigate the controversies to which the law is subject and respond to skeptics of the law’s legitimacy.

Where did you study with your Graduate School Research Travel Grant?

I studied in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, who is a world-leading expert on the philosophy of anti-discrimination law, had at the time of my travel been preparing to publish a book on the subject. She invited me to visit the faculty in order to discuss and offer feedback on the book manuscript before it was published and to present a reply to it at a major international conference on anti-discrimination law occurring during the month of my visit.

How important was obtaining a Graduate School Research Travel Grant for your research?

I would not have been able to travel without the travel grant. The financial support it offered helped me pay for my accommodations and food while visiting Toronto for a month. It also helped me pay for expenses I incurred to drive my car from Ithaca to Toronto and back and store it in Toronto for the duration of my visit.

What did this grant allow you to do that you might not have otherwise been able to?

I might have been able to attend the conference I was invited to present at in Toronto without the grant, but the grant allowed me to spend more time there and engage with my professor contact’s book manuscript. Doing so enabled me to write a paper to present at the conference, which in turn gave me an opportunity to network with some of the leading contributors to the field of my dissertation research. Writing this paper and presenting it at the conference were major catalysts for preparing my dissertation prospectus. They therefore helped me prepare to defend my A exam, which I did shortly after returning from my visit.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

Outside of my research, I enjoy cooking, weightlifting, and cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. 

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I chose Cornell because of the historical strength in the tradition of analytic philosophy and because it encourages interdisciplinary research between philosophy and law.