Ethics & Civics

Ethics and Civics courses examine the dilemmas that individuals, communities, and societies face as they explore questions of virtue, justice, equity, inclusion, and the greater good. 

In E&C courses, students do one or more of the following:

  • Analyze the foundations and ramifications of diverse modes of ethical inquiry and practice.
  • Situate ideas about ethics and civic engagement in their historical, cultural, and social contexts.
  • Explore real-world ethical questions, ranging from problems in individual lives to the challenges of meeting civic responsibility at local, national, and global levels.

The following courses fulfill the 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: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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

 

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: 

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)

Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory (Gen Ed 1091)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

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)

Conflict Resolution in a Divided World (Gen Ed 1033)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

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)

Consent (Gen Ed 1138)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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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)

Dissent and Disobedience in Democracies (Gen Ed 1035)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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Arthur Applbaum

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)

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

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020


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

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

Katherine K. Merseth and Jacob Fay

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)

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)

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)

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?

 

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

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

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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)

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

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

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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)

Justice: Ethics in an Age of Pandemic and Racial Reckoning (Gen Ed 1171)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020


What is a just society, and how should we contend with the ethical choices posed by this moment of pandemic and racial reckoning?

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Michael Sandel

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? 

... Read more about Justice: Ethics in an Age of Pandemic and Racial Reckoning (Gen Ed 1171)

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Gen Ed Categories

Aesthetics & Culture icon
 

Aesthetics & Culture

Aesthetics & Culture courses foster critical engagement with diverse artistic and creative endeavors and traditions across history and geographical locations, helping students situate themselves and others as participants in and products of art and culture. 

In A&C courses, students do one or more of the following:

  • Explore how aesthetic objects and practices affect our senses, emotions, and thoughts, and invite our interpretations.
  • Engage directly with aesthetic objects, practices, and texts, broadly conceived, to develop students’ skills of close reading, listening, and observation and to support analysis of the production and reception of these objects in their cultural contexts.
  • Engage in critical analysis of artistic and cultural production from a variety of approaches, including art-making, hands-on, or participatory/experiential assignments.
  • Examine the roles that artistic and creative endeavors play in shaping and reshaping societies.

 

Ethics & Civics icon
 

Ethics & Civics

Ethics & Civics courses examine the dilemmas that individuals, communities, and societies face as they explore questions of virtue, justice, equity, inclusion, and the greater good. 

In E&C courses, students do one or more of the following:

  • Analyze the foundations and ramifications of diverse modes of ethical inquiry and practice.
  • Situate ideas about ethics and civic engagement in their historical, cultural, and social contexts.
  • Explore real-world ethical questions, ranging from problems in individual lives to the challenges of meeting civic responsibility at local, national, and global levels.

 

Histories, Societies, Individuals icon
 

Histories, Societies, Individuals

Histories, Societies, Individuals courses explore the dynamic relationships between individuals and larger social, economic and political structures, both historically and in the present moment. 

In HSI courses, students do one or more of the following:

  • Examine change over time to understand the historical origins of the contemporary world.
  • Analyze the interplay between individuals, groups, and larger social, economic, and political structures in the making of the modern world.
  • Compare societies across time and space to broaden students’ understandings of the complexities of global experiences.
Science & Technology in Society icon
 

Science & Technology in Society

Science & Technology in Society courses explore scientific and technological ideas and practices in their social and historical contexts, providing a foundation to assess their promise and perils. STS courses engage students in the practice of science, not just the study of scientific findings.

In STS courses, students  do one or more of the following: 

  • Engage in scientific methods of inquiry, such as theoretical framing, structured observation or experimentation, and quantitative analysis.
  • Examine the influence of social, economic, cultural, and political factors on science and engineering.
  • Analyze the ethical, social, and political implications of scientific and technological ideas and practices, including their potential and risks.

 

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