Xavier Symons is a bioethicist, Fulbright Scholar, and Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at ACU.

About Xavier

Xavier is a Director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at ACU. Prior to this, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Flourishing Program in the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. His research interests include ethical issues at the beginning and end of life, conscientious objection, the ethics of resource allocation, and the philosophy of wellbeing.

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Awards & Fellowships

Xavier was awarded a 2020 Fulbright Future Postdoctoral Scholarship (Funded by the Kinghorn Foundation), and was a scholar in residence at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics from September 2021 to March 2022.

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Research Areas

Xavier’s research interests include ethical issues at the beginning and end of life, conscientious objection, ethical issues in aged care, and pandemic ethics. His PhD thesis focused on the allocation of lifesaving healthcare resources.

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Multigenerational living: is it a solution for our aging population?
Institute for Family Studies Blog, 30 August 2023

Americans are having fewer kids, living longer, and living alone. How might we better support older members of the community who are living alone but may not want to?

Living With Our Terminal Diagnosis
Genealogies of Modernity, 8 August 2023

Living positions itself within a wisdom tradition of the arts suggesting that the antidote for modern existential malaise is selfless concern and a virtuous embracing of the finitude of human existence.

The Hostility of Illness and the Therapeutic Importance of Hospitality
Church Life Journal, 26 June 2023

Illness is not just an affliction of the body; therapy ought to account for the full existential effects of illness.

The New (Biomedical) Normal.
Genealogies of Modernity, 2 March 2023

Xavier recently reviewed Aaron Kheriaty's book The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State.

Back to virtue? Effective altruism after FTX.
MercatorNet, 16 January 2023

What we need now from the effective altruist movement is a mea culpa and an acknowledgement that its methodology needs serious rethinking.

Should we allow conscientious objection in healthcare?
ABC Religion and Ethics Report, 23 November 2022

Xavier Symons chats with Andrew West about his new book Why Conscience Matters: A Defence of Conscientious Objection in Healthcare

Rediscovering the “Ars Moriendi”
Medium, 06 September 2022

One dimension of the question of the good life that received significant attention in the Middle Ages is, namely, the question ‘what is a good death?’.

A Google engineer claims that a chatbot has become a person. How does he know?
MercatorNet, 16 June 2022

The soul, or the heart, is not a material organ, and identity is not reducible to any material substrate (or to a digital algorithm for that matter).

Respect for autonomy in medical ethics: it’s more complicated than you think
JME Blog, 11 April 2022

Morality is too complicated, and the consequences of getting medical ethics wrong are too grave, for us to rest content with first approximations.

The End of the Pandemic
Public Discourse, 13 February 2022

Perhaps the end of the pandemic is not a matter of eliminating COVID-19 but rather coming to terms with our own mortality. For guidance, we can turn to Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich

Rediscovering the practice of hospitality in the twenty-first century hospital
ABC Religion and Ethics, 2 February 2022

Originally, hospitals were places where one would seek refuge rather than somewhere that one would seek to avoid.

Love to the very end: toward a theology of dementia
Church Life Journal, 3 December 2021

What characterizes the person is not one’s mental states but rather one’s capacity for love, relationship, and self-giving. Love is reflected in the orientation of one’s soul.


For enquiries, email xavier_symons@hsph.harvard.edu