Classes

    Human Trafficking, Slavery and Abolition in the Modern World (Gen Ed 1115)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    Why do slavery, human trafficking and other forms of servitude thrive today globally, including the USA, and what can we do about it?

     

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    Orlando Patterson

    We often think of slavery as being a dark chapter in our past, but this is a tragic oversimplification. What defines slavery in the modern world, and what are the moral, political and social implications of its continued existence? As we explore its underpinnings, we discover that all of us may be in some way complicit in its survival.... Read more about Human Trafficking, Slavery and Abolition in the Modern World (Gen Ed 1115)

    Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    Can we reconcile the scientific 'brain as a machine' view with our strong experience of moral agency?

     

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    Steven Hyman

    Advances in brain science have the potential to diminish many forms of human suffering and disability that are rooted in disordered brain function. But what are the ethical implications involved in altering the structure and function of human brains? What’s at stake when we have the ability to alter a person’s narrative identity, create brain-computer interfaces, and manipulate social and moral emotion? In this course, you will ask and attempt to answer these questions, and discuss the implications of mechanistic explanations of decision-making and action for widely-held concepts of moral agency and legal culpability.... Read more about Brains, Identity, and Moral Agency (Gen Ed 1064)

    Ignorance, Lies, Hogwash, and Humbug (Gen Ed 1023)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    Fake news, echo chambers, conspiracies, propaganda, information pollution--what are these and other features of the post truth era and how can we successfully navigate them?

     

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    Christopher Robichaud

    Time magazine cover - "Is Truth Dead?"

    Is truth dead? Time Magazine posed this question in bold red print on its April 3, 2017 cover. It’s a surprising concern, given that information of every sort imaginable is merely a click away on our phones, access to educational resources is robust for both traditional students and online learners, and direct interaction with public figures is more unencumbered than ever before with the help of social networks.... Read more about Ignorance, Lies, Hogwash, and Humbug (Gen Ed 1023)

    Nature (Gen Ed 1117)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2021

    Saving the planet is necessary and will actually make us happy, right?

     

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    Joyce Chaplin

    So, the good news is that we’re already using ethics to define how we can and should do the right thing in relation to the natural world. In fact, all ethics in the western tradition have used “nature” and “natural” as foundational definitions—we’re more than halfway there! But, obviously, we need to be conscious that we’re using those definitions and we must decide which of them to correct or reject. (Ethics from western philosophy have an outsized place in global debates over policy and science, for instance, but should this continue to be the case?)

    ... Read more about Nature (Gen Ed 1117)

    Medical Ethics and History (Gen Ed 1116)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2021

    Why have debates about medicine and public health (e.g., vaccination, abortion, etc.) become so polarized and contentious in the United States?

     

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    David Shumway Jones

    'The Doctor' painting by Luke Fildes

    Students will encounter the ethical dilemmas of medical practice throughout their lives, whether with their own health, or with the health of their families and friends.  This course will equip them with the tools of moral philosophy so that they can recognize, critique, and craft arguments grounded in appeals to utilitarianism, deontology, or rights.... Read more about Medical Ethics and History (Gen Ed 1116)

    The Democracy Project (Gen Ed 1002)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2021

    At a time when democracies are collapsing all over the world and when American democracy lies in a state of crisis, what, of its future, can be learned from its past?

     

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    Jill Lepore

    The history of the United States is the story of a struggle to realize two ideas: that all people are created equal and that people can govern themselves. “Our great experiment,” generations of Americans have called the United States, and with good cause. Democracy has always been, at heart, an inquiry, a question: Can the people rule? In 1787, when Alexander Hamilton asked whether it’s possible to establish a government ruled by reflection and choice rather than by accident and force, that was a hypothetical question.... Read more about The Democracy Project (Gen Ed 1002)

    Res Publica: A History of Representative Government (Gen Ed 1032)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    What is a democratic republic, and can such a regime — one that trusts citizens to capably choose and monitor those in power, and one that trusts those in power to restrain themselves and each other while attending to the public good — survive and protect us from tyranny?

     

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    Daniel Carpenter

    “A republic, if you can keep it.”  So did Benjamin Franklin characterize his hopes for American government. What did Franklin and others mean by republic, and why did he and so many others worry that it might be something hard to hold onto? This course will give you the theoretical basis and historical evolution of republics so that you can understand the American system of a democratic republic, now spread widely around the planet even as it is considered under threat.... Read more about Res Publica: A History of Representative Government (Gen Ed 1032)

    Economic Justice (Gen Ed 1121)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    How can we understand and make progress on disagreements about matters of economic and racial justice that are divisive to the point of making societies fall apart?

     

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    Mathias Risse

    Which is more just: capitalism or socialism? And how does that question intersect with racial justice? Capitalism has long reigned as the ideological solution to organizing society, but it is also clear that the pursuit of seemingly boundless material gain for some comes at the expense of others.... Read more about Economic Justice (Gen Ed 1121)

    Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature (Gen Ed 1058)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2019

    Ethics & Civics icon with textScience & Technology in Society icon with text

    Michael Sandel and Doug Melton

    The course explores the moral, social, and political implications of new technologies. Will biotechnology and AI enable us to hack humanity? Should we edit the genes of our children, extend the human lifespan, and genetically enhance our athletic ability and IQ? Can algorithms be fair? Will robots make work obsolete? Can smart machines outthink us? In an age of big data and social media, is privacy over? Is democracy?... Read more about Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature (Gen Ed 1058)

    Security (Gen Ed 1020)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2019

    How do the moral implications of security, a term with a long and provocatively ambivalent history, continue to be relevant in today’s understanding of community and social responsibility?

     

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    John Hamilton

    The term "security" has enjoyed a complex and ambivalent career. Broadly defined as a "removal of care," security leaves its subjects either carefree or careless.... Read more about Security (Gen Ed 1020)

    Equity and Excellence in K12 American Schools (Gen Ed 1076)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    How does the U.S. K12 education system reflect, reinforce, and reshape American society?

     

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    Katherine K. Merseth

    Each year, between September and June some 52 million students attend public schools in America.  But why?  Why do we have K-12 schools in America? What is their purpose? What we do expect schools to accomplish?  Headlines decrying the failed state of our nation’s schools and clarion calls for the improved quality and reach of American schooling in the 21st century are commonplace.... Read more about Equity and Excellence in K12 American Schools (Gen Ed 1076)

    Conflict Resolution in a Divided World (Gen Ed 1033)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    From the interpersonal to the international, are we destined to live in a world of destructive conflict—or can we negotiate our way out?

     

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    Daniel Shapiro

    Romero Britto image

    How should we understand conflict in our own lives and in the world around us? At all levels of society, people tend to approach conflict as an adversarial battle—communities polarize, ethnopolitical groups clash, and nations and international institutions face daily political tensions.... Read more about Conflict Resolution in a Divided World (Gen Ed 1033)

    The Philosopher and the Tyrant (Gen Ed 1030)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2023

    In a time of rising authoritarianism and polarized debate, what role can the love of wisdom have in tempering the pursuit of power?

     

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    David Damrosch

    Philosophers and politicians alike struggle to set the terms for living a good life in a world of conflict. Rulers seek guidance from their counselors, and philosophers have often dreamed of wielding real-world influence. Reading a series of masterpieces of philosophical thought and literary expression, we will examine some striking cases of relations between the pursuit of wisdom and the pursuit of power, from the extremes of conflict (the executions of Socrates, Han Fei, Jesus, Sir Thomas More) to the opposite dream of the philosopher king.... Read more about The Philosopher and the Tyrant (Gen Ed 1030)

    Evolving Morality: From Primordial Soup to Superintelligent Machines (Gen Ed 1046)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2022

    How can we understand the evolution of morality—from primordial soup to superintelligent machines—and how might the science of morality equip us to meet our most pressing moral challenges?

     

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    Joshua D. Greene

    In this course we’ll examine the evolution of morality on Earth, from its origins in the biology of unthinking organisms, through the psychology of intelligent primates, and into a future inhabited by machines that may be more intelligent and better organized than humans. First, we ask: What is morality?... Read more about Evolving Morality: From Primordial Soup to Superintelligent Machines (Gen Ed 1046)

    Reclaiming Argument: Logic as a Force for Good (Gen Ed 1051)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2020


    Argument and persuasion are features of all of our lives that can be as challenging and fraught as they are unavoidable and essential; what is the best way for us to handle them?
     

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    Edward J. Hall

    Our lives are awash in argument and persuasion. This course aims to teach you how to manage argument and persuasion in your own life – not just with skill, but ethically.... Read more about Reclaiming Argument: Logic as a Force for Good (Gen Ed 1051)

    Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory (Gen Ed 1091)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    What if many of our assumptions about the self and about how to live fully are limiting and even dangerous, and what other possibilities might we be able to find in classical Chinese philosophy?

     

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    Michael Puett

    What is the best way to live a fuller and more ethical life? Concretely what should we do to begin to live in a more flourishing and inspiring way? Questions such as these were at the heart of philosophical debates in China.... Read more about Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory (Gen Ed 1091)

    Ethics of Climate Change (Gen Ed 1015)

    Semester: 

    Spring

    Offered: 

    2022

    What are individuals, scientists, businesses, and governments morally required to do to prevent catastrophic climate change?

     

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    Lucas Stanczyk

    How should governments respond to the problem of climate change? What should happen to the level of greenhouse gas emissions and how quickly? How much can the present generation be expected to sacrifice to improve conditions for future generations?... Read more about Ethics of Climate Change (Gen Ed 1015)

    The Political Economy of Globalization (Gen Ed 1120)

    Semester: 

    Fall

    Offered: 

    2022

    How can a globalizing world of differing countries – rich and poor, democratic and authoritarian – best promote inclusive growth and human security by meeting the challenges of inequality, climate change, rising populism, and global disease?

     

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    Lawrence Summers and Robert Lawrence

    Why is populism becoming pervasive - and is there a revolt against global integration? What is the right balance between national sovereignty and international integration? Is the US equipped to sustain its role as a global leader? How does international trade affect prosperity and inequality?... Read more about The Political Economy of Globalization (Gen Ed 1120)

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