Shelly Kagan is the Clark Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and the former Henry R. Luce Professor of Social Thought and Ethics. Originally a native of Skokie, Illinois, he received his B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1976 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University under the supervision of Thomas Nagel in 1982. He taught at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Illinois at Chicago before arriving at Yale.
According to his Yale web page, his main research interests "lie in moral philosophy, in particular normative ethics. Indeed, his second book is a systematic survey of the field of normative ethics, considered analytically (rather than historically, as is more typical of textbooks in ethics). More particularly still, much of his work centers on the debate between consequentialist and deontological moral theories."
An article in the Yale Bulletin and Calendar says that his book The Limits of Morality "critiques so-called ordinary morality; the view that there are limits to what morality can impose on humans; and defends the doctrine of classical utilitarianism, which holds that people are morally obliged, without limit, to do as much good as they can." His Normative Ethics "examines how to judge the rightness or wrongness of actions, exploring such factors as consequences, harm and consent."
Kagan's Yale course "Death" was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2007  and the book Death is based on these lectures. In 2010, the online video lectures have made Kagan one of the most popular foreign teachers in China. Kagan also explores the concept of desert, which is a philosophical concept of what individuals do or do not deserve, in his book The Geometry of Desert.
- Normative Ethics, Westview Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8133-0846-1.
- The Limits of Morality, Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-823916-5.
- Death, Yale University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-300-18084-8.
- The Geometry of Desert, Oxford University Press, August 2012.ISBN 0199895597.
- "Shelly Kagan named Clark Professor of Philosophy", Yale Bulletin and Calendar, July 23, 2004, Volume 32, Number 33 retrieved November 19, 2008.
- Kagan's Yale web page retrieved April 26, 2012.
- PHIL 176: DEATH, Open Yale Courses
- "Kagan’s ‘Death’ class has made him a ‘star’ in China". Retrieved 22 November 2013.