Ethics & Civics

Moral Inquiry in the Novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (Gen Ed 1059)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

How can the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky help us think differently about everyday moral dilemmas that are often seen as the prerogative of religion, politics, or philosophy?
 

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Justin Weir

This course considers how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky take up moral inquiry in their fiction, introduces students to philosophical texts that informed their major fiction, and asks why the novel as a literary genre may be a good forum for the discussion of ethics.... Read more about Moral Inquiry in the Novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (Gen Ed 1059)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

Meritocracy and Its Critics (Gen Ed 1181)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

If a society achieved truly equal opportunity, so that everyone could rise as far as their effort and talent would take them, would it be a just society?

 

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Michael Sandel

Suppose a society achieved truly equal opportunity, so that everyone could rise as far as their effort and talent would take them. Would this be a just society? Would those on top deserve their success?... Read more about Meritocracy and Its Critics (Gen Ed 1181)

Life and Death in the Anthropocene (Gen Ed 1174)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

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: 

2022

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)

Race and Justice (Gen Ed 1146)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

What is racial justice, and through what justifiable means might it be achieved in the United States?

 

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Tommie Shelby

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)

Borders (Gen Ed 1140)

Semester: 

Fall

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

Two people holding hands and crying on the opposite sides of a metal fence.

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)

Making Change When Change Is Hard: the Law, Politics, and Policy of Social Change (Gen Ed 1102)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

How does social change happen?


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Cass Sunstein

How does change happen? When, why, and how do people, and whole nations, come to together to influence large-scale policies and actions on issues like the environment, equality, criminal justice? Why do revolutions occur? This course will try to answer these questions, and do so by exploring a diversity of efforts related to societal change.... Read more about Making Change When Change Is Hard: the Law, Politics, and Policy of Social Change (Gen Ed 1102)

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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