PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics
The various sections of this course discuss a wide variety of ethical issues.
PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics: Advanced Topics in Human Rights
This course addresses a variety of topics within human rights. We’ll start with some texts that point to different approaches in conceptualizing human rights, as well as an overview of the major human rights instruments in international law and global governance. We’ll look at concepts of rights, and their empirical and Marxist critics; the shift in how torture has been viewed since 9/11; the different ways that gender comes into play within human rights; the thorny problem of how to determine intent in cases of genocide; and what happens when countries claim the right to prosecute human rights violations that took place in other parts of the world.
PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics: International Ethics
This course is intended to give students an overview of the theoretical frameworks for thinking about ethical questions within the international arena, as well as some of the critical issues in this field. Some would argue that ethics is simply irrelevant in international affairs—that states and non-state actors simply pursue their interests, and that’s all that can be expected of them. But even in war, there has long been a set of articulated principles about constraints on warfare, and what moral duties are owed even to an enemy in combat.
The twentieth century saw the emergence of institutions of global governance, which addressed ethical violations in warfare, as well as human rights; and which also established means for enforcing international law against states and individuals. But many have raised questions about their focus and adequacy: are there ways in which international law reflects a gender bias? Why are economic rights treated as secondary, when the human damage from poverty is far greater than the destruction that is done in warfare, or even genocide? Should there be measures of accountability that are binding on institutions of global governance themselves?
PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics: Ethics and Human Reproduction
This course explores some contemporary ethical and social policy questions concerning human procreation. Feminist and non-feminist perspectives on these issues will be discussed. Topics we will cover include the following:
- Are there good (or bad) reasons for procreating?
- Can there be an obligation to procreate? Or not to procreate?
- Is Julian Savulescu right in claiming that human beings have a duty of “procreative beneficence”?
- To what extent are people responsible for their gametes and reproductive behaviour?
- Should all prospective parents be licensed?
- What is the moral status of contract pregnancy (“surrogacy”)?
- Would ectogenesis (gestation in an artificial uterus) be bad for women?
PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics
This course will explore the topic of what is a "just" society. We will do so through the classic texts of the liberalism/communitarian debate, namely John Rawls' A Theory of Justice, Robert Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia, Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice, Michael Sandel's Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, and conclude with selections from Iris Young's Justice and the Politics of Difference, Martha Nussbaum's Creating Capabilities and Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice.
PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics: Globalization Ethics
In this course we will explore economic and cultural issues of globalization, with particular attention to their normative dimensions. The economic issues include the role of global financial institutions such as the World Bank, neoliberal views on market forces, the right to work, and so on. The cultural issues will involve nationalism, colonialism, cultural identity, group rights, and related topics such as global ecology.
We will draw on a variety of sources, including videos as well as books and articles. We will begin the course with two influential (short) classic texts: Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto. Barely half a century separates these two works, and yet they are profoundly different even though both are provocative in light of contemporary reality. We will then look at John Rawls's important attempt to extend his monumental theory of justice to the relationships among nations, The Law of Peoples, Peter Singer’s One World: The Ethics of Globalization, and Seyla Benhabib’s application of recent social and political theory in The Claims of Culture.
Other sources will take us in various different directions, sometimes well beyond the terrain of official philosophy. For example, we will read and discuss selections from the economist (and Nobel laureate) Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and Its Discontents, Denis Heyck's anthropological study, Surviving Globalization in Three Latin American Communities and the journalist Thomas Friedman's The Lexis and the Olive Tree, as well as essays by Peter Singer, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Pogge, and Jurgen Habermas. The readings will be supplemented with several videos about some of the disturbing by-products of globalization.
PHIL 468: Topics in Ethics: Race Theory
In this course we will examine several contemporary arguments within the Philosophy of Race. We will focus on two general questions: What is race? What values do and/or should we assign to race in our society?. The course will be divided into four parts:
- The historical roots of contemporary arguments about race
- Several contemporary arguments about race
- The construction and invisibility of whiteness as a racialized identity
- A few of social/political implications of these arguments.