Ethics & Civics

If There is No God, All is Permitted: Theism and Moral Reasoning (Gen Ed 1161)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

Can we have confidence that our moral claims are true?

 

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Jay Harris

For centuries in the West, Jewish and Christian thinkers (among others) have asserted that moral judgment is impossible without some concept of the deity. So convincing were they that one important character created by a Russian author of the nineteenth century was led to express the idea (if not exactly the words), "if there is no God, all is permitted."... Read more about If There is No God, All is Permitted: Theism and Moral Reasoning (Gen Ed 1161)

Consent (Gen Ed 1138)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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?

 

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Elaine Scarry

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)

Borders (Gen Ed 1140)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

How have borders been formed historically, and what are the ethics of border construction, defense, expansion or transgression?

 

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Mary Lewis

 

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. 

... Read more about Borders (Gen Ed 1140)

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)

Race and Caste (Gen Ed 1126)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

What can thinking about race and caste together tell us about identity and inequality?

 

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Ajantha Subramanian

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)

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)

The Philosopher and the Tyrant (Gen Ed 1030)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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)

Economic Justice (Gen Ed 1121)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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)

Life and Death in the Anthropocene (Gen Ed 1174)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

What does it mean for us -- both as a society and as individuals -- to live in a world radically remade by the human hand?

 

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Naomi Oreskes

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)

Pluralism: Case Studies in American Diversity (Gen Ed 1166)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

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?

 

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Diana Eck

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)

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