Ethics & Civics

Ethics and Civics courses engage with large questions about right and wrong, helping you grapple with the nature of civic virtue and the ethical dimensions of what you say and do.

The following courses fulfill the Gen Ed Ethics & Civics requirement

Adam & Eve (Gen Ed 1075)

Semester: 

N/A

Aesthetics & Culture icon with textEthics & Civics icon with text

Joseph Koerner and Stephen Greenblatt

For most of history, humans expressed ethical ideas in the form of stories, and of all these the story of Adam and Eve has been perhaps the most powerful and enduring.  For almost three thousand years, in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds, people practiced ethical reasoning through the seedpod of this—even to early audiences—unreasonable tale: the first man, formed by God at the culmination of the world’s creation and followed soon by the first woman, disobeys his creator by eating a forbidden fruit, is punished by sickness, hardship, and death, and passes his curse to the entire future human species.... Read more about Adam & Eve (Gen Ed 1075)

Borders (Gen Ed 1140)

Semester: 

N/A

Ethics & Civics icon with textHistories, Societies, Individuals icon with text

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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

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)

Consent (Gen Ed 1138)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

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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)

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

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

Ethics & Civics icon with textHistories, Societies, Individuals icon with text

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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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? The mechanisms of many forms of bondage are secretive and illegal, making it difficult to quantify the number of people affected by this persistent institution. 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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

Ethics & Civics icon with textHistories, Societies, Individuals icon with text

Samantha Power and Cass Sunstein

How does change happen? Why do revolutions occur? When do people, and when do whole nations, suddenly focus on the environment, on sex equality, on religious liberty, on criminal justice, on free markets, on new rights? This course will try to answer these questions, exploring diverse efforts to influence large-scale policies and actions.... Read more about Making Change When Change is Hard: the Law, Politics, and Policy of Social Change (Gen Ed 1102)

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Question of Conscientious Citizenship (Gen Ed 1142)

Semester: 

N/A

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Brandon Terry

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)

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Gen Ed Categories

Aesthetics & Culture icon
 

Aesthetics & Culture

Aesthetics and Culture courses engage diverse artistic genres and cultural traditions, helping you situate yourself and others as products of and participants in art and culture.

 

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Ethics & Civics

Ethics and Civics courses engage with large questions about right and wrong, helping you grapple with the nature of civic virtue and the ethical dimensions of what you say and do.

Histories, Societies, Individuals icon
 

Histories, Societies, Individuals

Histories, Societies, Individuals courses engage questions of identity and social change, helping you understand the histories and traditions that you will encounter in a global context. 

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Science & Technology in Society

Science and Technology in Society courses engage you in the study of scientific innovations and their social contexts, helping you assess the promise and pitfalls of current and future innovations using methods of scientific inquiry.

Courses by Semester

Questions about Gen Ed?

Come to our weekly office hours (1-3pm during the term) on the fourth floor of the Smith Campus Center or contact a Gen Ed advisor.

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