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Ethics

How should we live?  This question arises for us both as individuals and as members of groups (and citizens of states).  In grappling with it, we will inevitably be driven to an even more fundamental axiological question: what (if anything) has value in-itself?  States of happiness?  Flourishing? Autonomy? Respect for the law? Freedom? Equality? Individual concrete human beings themselves? Individual animals? Species? The ecosystem as a whole?  What exactly are the fundamental bearers of value (and disvalue!) and how does this bear on nature of the good (and bad!) life?  These are, broadly speaking, ethical questions.  Academic disciplines across the curriculum approach these questions from different, but complementary, perspectives.

 

ENGL 223: American Transcendentalism

Attempts to discern the nineteenth-century Zeitgeist come down, Emerson says, to a "practical question of the conduct of life. How shall I live?" This interdisciplinary course will investigate the works of the American Transcendentalist movement in its restless discontent with the conventional, its eclectic search for better ways of thinking and living. We will engage major works of Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, and Whitman alongside documents of the scientific, religious, and political changes that shaped their era and provoked their responses.
Not offered 2017-2018

ENTS 203: Ethics and Ecology

This course is designed to investigate the ethical questions raised by the topics explored in Global Change Biology (Biology 210), concurrent registration is required. We will consider how environmental ethicists have engaged topics such as species loss, global warming, invasive species, resource consumption and overharvesting, and pollution. The course will meet once a week to discuss ethical literature around such questions as whether we have duties to animals, ecosystems, and future generations and to examine how ethicists make use of ecological concepts.
Not offered 2017-2018

ENTS 215: Environmental Ethics

This course is an introduction to the central ethical debates in environmental policy and practice, as well as some of the major traditions of environmental thought. It investigates such questions as whether we can have moral duties towards animals, ecosystems, or future generations; what is the ethical basis for wilderness preservation; and what is the relationship between environmentalism and social justice.
Offered Fall 2017

HIST 131: Saints, Sinners, and Philosophers in Late Antiquity

In Late Antiquity, Christians and pagans asked with particular intensity: How should I live? What should be my relationship to wealth, family, power, and the world? How are mind and body related in the good life and how can this relationship be controlled and directed? What place had education in the pursuit of the good life? Was the best life to be achieved through material renunciation, psychological transformation, or both? We will ask these and many other questions of a wide array of primary sources written originally in Latin, Greek, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian while employing the insights of modern scholarship.
Not offered 2017-2018

IDSC 251: Windows on the Good Life

Human beings are always and everywhere challenged by the question: What should I do to spend my mortal time well? One way to approach this ultimate challenge is to explore some of the great cultural products of our civilization--works that are a delight to read for their wisdom and artfulness. This series of two-credit courses will explore a philosophical dialogue of Plato in the fall, a work from the Bible in the winter, and a pair of plays by Shakespeare in the spring. The course can be repeated for credit throughout the year and in subsequent years.
Offered Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018

PHIL 115: Skepticism, God, and Ethical Dilemmas

If I can't rule out that I'm dreaming, does it follow that I don't know that I'm in Minnesota right now? Are there sound arguments establishing either the existence or non-existence of God? If I can divert a train from one track to another so that only one person loses her life instead of five, am I morally required to do so? In this course we will address questions concerning skepticism, God, and moral dilemmas, and explore some of their interrelations. We will pay close attention to issues of philosophical methodology along the way.
Not offered 2017-2018

PHIL 117: Philosophical Problems: Mind, Free Will and Morality

What is knowledge, and can we know anything at all? What is the mind, and how is it related to the body? What is consciousness? Is there free will? Are there universal moral truths, or is morality subjective? In this introduction to perennial philosophical questions (as well as the goals and methods of philosophy) we will read contemporary and historical philosophical texts. 
Not offered 2017-2018

PHIL 119: Life and Death

Considered in the context of the universe humankind seems vanishingly insignificant. The entire history of humankind is but a blip on the map of space and time. Moreover, each of our lives is a blip on that blip. So what is the point of it all? In this course, we will look at the notion of "meaning" as it relates to human life, the universe, and the existence of God; whether death is something we should be afraid of; and the connections, if any, between happiness, morality and meaning.
Not offered 2017-2018

PHIL 213: Ethics

How should we live? This is the fundamental question for the study of ethics. This course looks at classic and contemporary answers to the fundamental question from Socrates to Kant to modern day thinkers. Along the way, we consider slightly (but only slightly) more tractable questions such as: What reason is there to be moral? Is there such a thing as moral knowledge (and if so, how do we get it)? What are the fundamental principles of right and wrong (if there are any at all)? Is morality objective?
Offered Fall 2017

PHIL 222: Topics in Medical Ethics

Over the past forty years, the idea that competent patients have the right to make decisions about their own care has become paramount in medical ethics and medical practice. But the primacy of patient autonomy as a value raises a host of interesting questions: What can (or should) clinicians do when patients make poor decisions? What does it mean for a patient to be competent? Who should make decisions in those cases where the patient is deemed incompetent or too young to make decisions for herself? This course examines these questions and, depending on interest, larger policy questions (like debates about organ markets) that revolve around the relationship between autonomy and paternalism.
Not offered 2017-2018

PHIL 232: Social and Political Philosophy

We will study several prominent late twentieth century philosophers writing about social and political justice and representing a variety of views, such as liberalism, socialism, libertarianism, communitarianism, feminism and post-modernism. The following are some of the authors we will read: John Rawls, Gerald Cohen, Robert Nozick, Charles Taylor, Iris Marion Young, Seyla Benhabib, Jurgen Habermas, Jean-Francois Lyotard.
Not offered 2017-2018

PHIL 243: Animal Ethics: The Moral Status of Animals

In an era of rapid globalization and increasing dominion of humans over the natural world, we are all (often unwittingly) party to practices that seemingly exact grave harm on billions of nonhuman animals. This raises a pressing ethical question: what are our moral obligations (if any) to nonhuman animals, and how might we practically fulfill such moral obligations (if they exist)? Also, what bearing does the latest scientific research on animal behavior have on these questions? In this course we will explore these and related questions, through a study of various philosophers and ethologists. The course will culminate in a class project that addresses animal ethics related issues in the community.
Not offered 2017-2018

PHIL 270: Ancient Philosophy: The Good Life

This course will center on a close reading of two texts, Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, both of which address what is arguably the core concern in the ancient ethical tradition: the relationship between the morally good life and the happy life. In keeping with the ancient tendency to resist a sharp divide between the private and political spheres, we will examine the significance of Plato and Aristotle’s reflections on the good human life both for the individual and for the broader community.
Offered Fall 2017

PHIL 395: The Self: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives

We will be exploring some of the conceptions of the self and the good life that have appeared in major psychological and philosophical texts over the past 100 years or so. Using On Being Authentic as a key, we will start out by asking, "What is the self I am supposed to be true to when I strive to be true to my own self?" Our explorations will lead us through scientific naturalism (Freud), Romanticism (Jung, Alice Miller), Marxian humanism (Fromm), social constructionism and postmodernism (Clifford Geertz, Foucault), and narrativist views (Jerome Bruner, Guignon).
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 250: Ancient Political Philosophy: Plato's Republic

Cross-listed with POSC 350. In this course we will examine ancient political philosophy through the intensive study of Plato's Republic, perhaps the greatest work of political philosophy ever written. What is morality? Why should a person behave morally? Wouldn't it be more satisfying to be a tyrant? What is the best way of life? What would a perfect society look like? What would be its customs and institutions, and who would rule? What would it demand of us, and would that price be worth paying? These are some of the politically (and personally) vital questions addressed by the book.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 254: Freedom, Excellence, Happiness: Aristotle's Ethics

Cross-listed with POSC 354. What does it mean to be morally excellent? To be politically excellent? To be intellectually and spiritually excellent? Are these things mutually compatible? Do they lie within the reach of everyone? And what is the relation between excellence and pleasure? Between excellence and happiness? Aristotle addresses these questions in intricate and illuminating detail in the Nicomachean Ethics, which we will study in this course. The Ethics is more accessible than some of Aristotle's other works. But it is also a multifaceted and multi-layered book, and one that reveals more to those who study it with care.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 256: Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche understood himself to be living at a moment of great endings: the exhaustion of modernity, the self-undermining of rationalism, the self-overcoming of morality--in short, and most stunningly, the "death of God." Nietzsche both foresaw and tried to accelerate these endings. But he also tried to bring about a new beginning, a culture that he believed would be life-affirming and life-enhancing. In this course we will engage in a close study of Beyond Good and Evil, perhaps Nietzsche's most beautiful book and probably his most political one. Selections from some of his other books will also be assigned.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 259: Justice Among Nations

Crosslisted with POSC 349. The purpose of this course is to bring to bear great works of political philosophy on the foundational questions of international politics. Our primary text will be Thucydides' gripping history of The Peloponnesian War. Thucydides was perhaps the greatest thinker about international relations that the world has seen. He was also a political philosopher--and psychologist--of the first rank. His book teaches much not only about politics but about human nature.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 350: Ancient Political Philosophy: Plato's Republic*

Cross-listed with POSC 250. In this course we will examine ancient political philosophy through the intensive study of Plato's Republic, perhaps the greatest work of political philosophy ever written. What is morality? Why should a person behave morally? Wouldn't it be more satisfying to be a tyrant? What is the best way of life? What would a perfect society look like? What would be its customs and institutions, and who would rule? What would it demand of us, and would that price be worth paying? These are some of the politically (and personally) vital questions addressed by the book.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 350: Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil*

Nietzsche understood himself to be living at a moment of great endings: the exhaustion of modernity, the self-undermining of rationalism, the self-overcoming of moralityin short, and most stunningly, the "death of God." Nietzsche both foresaw and tried to accelerate these endings. But he also tried to bring about a new beginning, a culture that he believed would be life-affirming and life-enhancing. In this course we will engage in a close study of Beyond Good and Evil, perhaps Nietzsche's most beautiful book and probably his most political one. Selections from some of his other books will also be assigned.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 355: Identity, Culture and Rights*

This course will look at the contemporary debate in multiculturalism in the context of a variety of liberal philosophical traditions, including contractarians, libertarians, and Utilitarians. These views of the relationship of individual to community will be compared to those of the communitarian and egalitarian traditions. Research papers may use a number of feminist theory frameworks and methods.
Not offered 2017-2018

POSC 359: Cosmopolitanism*

Stoic philosophers saw themselves as citizens of the world (cosmopolitans). In the eighteenth century, Kant thought that the increasingly global nature of the world requires international political institutions to guarantee peace and human rights. After the Cold War cosmopolitanism was back in fashion. Even the favorite drink of the girls on TV's Sex and the City was called Cosmopolitan. This course explores different meanings of cosmopolitanism: moral, political, and cultural. The intention is to show that cosmopolitanism is a complex reality that requires political institutions, as well as a new ethics to be cultivated through a particular engagement of culture.
Not offered 2017-2018

PSYC 375: Language and Deception

In this course we will examine deception and persuasion in language use. We will take up three main issues. The first is what it means to deceive and how people deceive others through language. What methods do they use, and how do these methods work? The second issue is why people deceive. What purposes do their deceptions serve in court, in advertising, in bureaucracies, in business transactions, and in everyday face-to-face conversation? The third issue is the ethics of deception. Is it legitimate to deceive others, and if so, when and why?
Not offered 2017-2018

RELG 153: Introduction to Buddhism

This course offers a survey of Buddhism from its inception in India some 2500 years ago to the present. We first address fundamental Buddhist ideas and practices, then their elaboration in the Mahayana and tantric movements, which emerged in the first millennium CE in India. We also consider the diffusion of Buddhism throughout Asia and to the West. Attention will be given to both continuity and diversity within Buddhism--to its commonalities and transformations in specific historical and cultural settings. We also will address philosophical, social, political, and ethical problems that are debated among Buddhists and scholars of Buddhism today.
Not offered 2017-2018

RELG 227: Liberation Theologies

An introduction to liberationist thought, including black theology, Latin American liberation theology, and feminist theology through writings of various contemporary thinkers. Attention will be directed to theories of justice, power, and freedom. We will also examine the social settings out of which these thinkers have emerged, their critiques of "traditional" theologies, and the new vision of Christian life they have developed in recent decades. Previous study of Christianity is recommended but not required.
Not offered 2017-2018

SOAN 285: The Ethics of Civic Engagement

In this course, students will discuss the ethical questions that arise when they engage with others in research, service, organizing, or policy work. Students will read and talk about the meanings and forms of civic engagement and use these readings to reflect upon their own research or service projects, or to reflect upon the college's role in Haiti or Faribault, two areas where college members are actively engaged. Gaining insights from sociological and practice based readings, we will examine different perspectives on the ways that power and privilege relate to civic engagement.
Offered Spring 2018

WGST 210: Sexuality and Religious Controversies in the United States and Beyond

From pulpits to political campaigns, notions of sexuality are deployed in religious discourse to develop definitions of morality, ethics, family, marriage, gender, citizenship, civil liberties, righteousness and sinfulness. Religious concepts have also been used as creative tools to repress, liberate, legislate, and re-vision various conceptions of sexuality. This course will examine the ways in which religious ideologies, theologies, motivations, and practices function in both public and private contexts in debates over a range of topics, including homosexuality, abortion, and public comportment. We will consider questions about how ideas of sexuality are established as normative through scriptural, ritual, and rhetorical devices.
Not offered 2017-2018