Thursday, October 1, 2015

Morality & Justice: What’s in it for me?

This is a course I have created and will be teaching for the Interdisciplinary Seminar program at Benedictine University, spring 2016. Here is the course description. Other details are available upon request.

IDS 301: Morality & Justice: What’s in it for me? 

Course Description: When we talk about morality, we are also talking about justice. We are talking about rights, duties, and mutually-agreed principles based on trust. We will explore how and why we should live moral and just lives through an interdisciplinary study of philosophical ethics, social and political psychology, evolutionary biology, and theology to create a framework for an understanding of morality and justice. We will examine and discuss such essential questions as “Why does morality serve an important function in our lives as individuals and in our community? What is the path that maximizes both our own well-being and the well-being of others? What do we claim are moral rights? What is the difference between moral and legal rights? Are rights legitimate claims we make on others even though one person’s right entails another person’s obligation to that right? Is it unreasonable to require the wealthy among us to sacrifice the freedom to meet some of their luxury needs (desires) so that the poor can have the liberty to meet their basic needs? Can we meaningfully speak of future generations as having rights against us or of our having corresponding obligations to them? Should we do what is right even though the consequences may be undesirable? To what extent are ignorance, good motives, and constraint legitimate excuses for wrongdoing? How can morality be justified to someone who is not moved by moral considerations or believes there are no true answers to moral questions? Is it possible we could arrive at a set of ethical principles that would reconcile self-interest with the common good, promote personal integrity and respect for legitimate rights, and apply to all of us at all times?...” 

In this class, we will discuss problems in ethics through an understanding of Normative Ethics (Ethical Hedonism, Ethical Pluralism), Meta-ethical Relativism and Subjectivism, and Meta-ethical Theories (Naturalism, Intuitionism, Non-cognitivism). We will examine historical theories from Greek, medieval, early modern, 19th century (deontological and teleological ethics) and their relevance to contemporary ethical thought. We will also engage in a discussion about U.S. and Illinois politics…

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