How can members of a species that discovered symbolic logic and the double helix also believe that the earth is flat and that Hillary Clinton ran a child-sex ring out of a pizzeria? Human rationality is very much in the news, as we struggle to understand how an era with unpreceded scientific sophistication could harbor so much fake news, conspiracy theorizing, and “post-truth” rhetoric.... Read more about Rationality (Gen Ed 1066)
As a society, we pay particular attention to borders when incidents such as children separated from their asylum-seeking parents or tear-gas being used to deter entry throw the legal divide between two nation states into sharp relief. But seldom do we stop to think about what a border is, or when and why some borders are defended more aggressively than others.
What does it mean to be a conscientious citizen? What are our responsibilities as civic-minded, morally-engaged members of overlapping communities? This course seeks to answer such questions by exploring the ethical, religious, and political thought of arguably the greatest public intellectual and activist that the United States ever produced, Martin Luther King, Jr. In interrogating King’s body of public philosophy, as well as its leading critics and interpreters, we will pursue a body of questions that remain essential to thinking through the problems of citizenship in the current age.... Read more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Question of Conscientious Citizenship (Gen Ed 1142)
We all agree that racism is wrong. Yet beneath this abstract consensus we find deep disagreements about what to do about it, and even about what racism is. We will address these questions by thinking about some very specific issues, drawing on work in philosophy, law, history, and the social sciences.... Read more about Race and Justice (Gen Ed 1146)
Who are you? We typically answer this question with a name and a collection of identity terms. Our identities may be ascribed or chosen; we often experience them as simply given, and we sometimes struggle against them. We use these identity categories, in turn, to structure decisions, negotiate relationships, and otherwise shape our lives.... Read more about Who Do You Think You Are? The Ethics of Identity (Gen Ed 1009)
How can we recognize the link between ethical acts of consent in personal life (marriage, sexual experience, contracts) and the essential role that citizenship plays in democratic states during both war and peace?
Consent will be studied in four domains: Part I-the relation of consent and the body in marriage, in medicine, and in state citizenship; Part II – the act of consent and dissent in war (beginning with the dissent of Achilles in the Iliad and including readings up to the present); Part III – freedom of movement, freedom of entry and exit in citizenship (including contexts where right of movement has been denied); Part IV – consent as the basis of cultural creation.... Read more about Consent (Gen Ed 1138)
Recent political upheavals in several of the world’s established democracies have sparked discussions about dissent and disobedience not seen since the 1960s. When, if ever, are citizens in a democracy justified in breaking the law to protest or resist what they believe to be bad, unjust, or illegitimate laws or policies?... Read more about Dissent and Disobedience in Democracies (Gen Ed 1035)
How does our society deal with religious, ethical, and cultural diversity, and what challenges do we face as people of different faith communities encounter one another in cities and public institutions, schools and businesses, neighborhoods and families?
Who do we mean when we say “we?” How does a society deal with religious, ethical, and cultural diversity? What challenges do we face as people of different communities encounter one another in cities and public institutions, schools and businesses, neighborhoods and families? These are urgent questions in many nations today, but in this course we focus on the United States.... Read more about Pluralism: Case Studies in American Diversity (Gen Ed 1166)
This course explores classical and contemporary theories of justice and applies them to the ethical issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example: Should we be willing to accept a certain number of deaths to re-open economic activity? Should the state use surveillance tracking of citizens to enforce social distancing? Is it wrong to pay people to submit to certain risks, such as testing new vaccines? What, if anything, does the experience of the pandemic suggest about how our economy and society should be organized?
In 2019, geologists voted to make the Anthropocene a time unit in the Geological Time scale. For scientists, this means that future geologists will be able to see the effects of human activities in the stratigraphic record and thereby distinguish this epoch from the ones that came before.... Read more about Life and Death in the Anthropocene (Gen Ed 1174)
Race and caste are two of the most enduring forms of social stratification. While their histories date well before the advent of political democracy, they have taken on new forms in the context of democratic social transformation and capitalist development. In this course, we will grapple with the meanings, uses, and politics of race and caste historically and in the contemporary moment.... Read more about Race and Caste (Gen Ed 1126)