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

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)

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)

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

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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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)

Medical Ethics and History (Gen Ed 1116)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

Why have debates about medicine and public health (e.g., vaccination, abortion, etc.) become so polarized and contentious in the United States?

 

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David Shumway Jones

'The Doctor' painting by Luke Fildes

Students will encounter the ethical dilemmas of medical practice throughout their lives, whether with their own health, or with the health of their families and friends.  This course will equip them with the tools of moral philosophy so that they can recognize, critique, and craft arguments grounded in appeals to utilitarianism, deontology, or rights.... Read more about Medical Ethics and History (Gen Ed 1116)

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)

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)

Nature (Gen Ed 1117)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Saving the planet is necessary and will actually make us happy, right?

 

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Joyce Chaplin

So, the good news is that we’re already using ethics to define how we can and should do the right thing in relation to the natural world. In fact, all ethics in the western tradition have used “nature” and “natural” as foundational definitions—we’re more than halfway there! But, obviously, we need to be conscious that we’re using those definitions and we must decide which of them to correct or reject. (Ethics from western philosophy have an outsized place in global debates over policy and science, for instance, but should this continue to be the case?)

... Read more about Nature (Gen Ed 1117)

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)

Rationality (Gen Ed 1066)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2020

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Steven Pinker

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)

Reclaiming Argument: Logic as a Force for Good (Gen Ed 1051)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020


Argument and persuasion are features of all of our lives that can be as challenging and fraught as they are unavoidable and essential; what is the best way for us to handle them?
 

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Edward J. Hall

Our lives are awash in argument and persuasion. This course aims to teach you how to manage argument and persuasion in your own life – not just with skill, but ethically.... Read more about Reclaiming Argument: Logic as a Force for Good (Gen Ed 1051)

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)

Security (Gen Ed 1020)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

How do the moral implications of security, a term with a long and provocatively ambivalent history, continue to be relevant in today’s understanding of community and social responsibility?

 

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John Hamilton

The term "security" has enjoyed a complex and ambivalent career. Broadly defined as a "removal of care," security leaves its subjects either carefree or careless.... Read more about Security (Gen Ed 1020)

Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature (Gen Ed 1058)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

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Michael Sandel and Doug Melton

The course explores the moral, social, and political implications of new technologies. Will biotechnology and AI enable us to hack humanity? Should we edit the genes of our children, extend the human lifespan, and genetically enhance our athletic ability and IQ? Can algorithms be fair? Will robots make work obsolete? Can smart machines outthink us? In an age of big data and social media, is privacy over? Is democracy?... Read more about Tech Ethics: AI, Biotech, and the Future of Human Nature (Gen Ed 1058)

See all Ethics & Civics Courses

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.

 

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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.
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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.

 

Courses by Semester

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