Monique Canto-Sperber was born in French Algeria and has been living in France since 1964. An alumnus of the Ecole normale supérieure de jeunes filles, she is Agrégée and holds a PhD in philosophy.
After teaching at the universities of Rouen and Amiens, she became Research Director at the CNRS in 1993. Between 2001 and 2004, she was a member of the Comité consultatif national d'éthique and served as its President from 2004 to 2007.
She produces the radio programme "Questions d'éthique" on France Culture, broadcast every Monday evening.
She is officier de la Légion d'honneur officier de l'ordre du Mérite et chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
Her work in ancient philosophy is centred on ethical theory and epistemology; she has published several commented translations of Plato (Gorgias, Ion, Euthydème, Ménon) and various books. She has also taken an active part in the renewal of moral philosophy in France, with the creation in 1993 of a book collection by the Presses Universitaires de France.
Monique Canto-Sperber has been the head of the Ecole normale supérieure since 2005 (renewed in 2010). She has introduced the practice of scientific advisory committees in humanities and social sciences departments, created an International Council for Strategic Orientation, developed a specific ENS Diploma and started a rehabilitation of research spaces.
She has also encouraged the projection of the Ecole normale supérieure as an institution of research and higher education comparable to leading international research universities, rather than as a specific French creation. She has promoted the creation of a group of institutions called Paris Sciences et Lettres - Quartier latin. On February 2012, she was elected as the President of Paris Sciences et Lettres - Quartier latin.
Paris Sciences et Lettres – Quartier latin (PSL) is a new research university, made of cooperative actions between the École normale supérieure, the Collège de France, ESPCI ParisTech, Chimie ParisTech, Paris Observatory, Paris Dauphine University and the Curie Institute.
Paris Sciences et Lettres aims to rapidly become one of the world's outstanding universities with a strong international presence and a common citation policy for its publications (PSL Research University). PSL was chosen as an Excellence Initiative in July 2011 PSL* and was the beneficiary of a significant endowment.
The institutions which have founded PSL, recently joined by Mines ParisTech as well as the Conservatoire de Paris, the Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique CNSAD, the École des Beaux-Arts, the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs, La Fémis, the Lycée Henri-IV, the Pierre-Gilles de Gennes Foundation, the Louis-Bachelier Institute and the Rothschild Foundation (IBPC), enjoy a prestigious reputation. Each has an identity that PSL wishes to respect, in order to maintain the performances in teaching and research that form the basis of their excellence.
PSL brings together a range of institutions with diverse histories and strong identities, bound together by the practices and values shared by all its members: teaching through innovative and groundbreaking research. Thus, the French National Centre for Scientific Research and Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, as transversal research organisms, have committed to PSL as founding members, and National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control as an associate member.
Paris Sciences et Lettres endorses a shared institutional ambition, a research strategy that encompasses the whole spectrum of academic disciplines and a common teaching strategy through the awarding of PSL degrees and shared initiatives to promote and disseminate knowledge.
Heirs to the French meritocratic tradition, the institutions of PSL have come together to write a new chapter in their histories, in a shared commitment to continued renewal and a genuine spirit of openness.
A specialist of ancient philosophy, Monique Canto-Sperber has worked on and translated dialogues of Plato. In her book, Greek Ethics, Monique Canto-Sperber argues notably that the contemporary conception of Greek moral philosophy as essentially forms of eudemonism is an artefact and that contemporary debates only present a very partial view on the topic.
She has also played an important role in the introduction in France of contemporary debates in Anglo-American philosophy.
She has edited at the Presses Universitaires de France a Dictionnaire d'éthique et de philosophie morale, with numerous French and international specialists, on major issues of moral philosophy.
During the last 15 years, Monique Canto-Sperber has also written important works of political philosophy. In books such as Rules of Freedom or Does liberalism need to be saved?, she offers an analysis of liberalism that attempt to give the notion a new legitimacy in progressive political thinking.
Recent books such as L'Idée de guerre juste and La Morale du monde offer her vision of international relations.