01:730:105 Current Moral and Social Issues
- Instructor: Chorun, Alan | McCrossin, Edward
01 (T. McCrossin) Overview:
… how we think is not just mildly interesting, not just a subject of intellectual debate, but a matter of life and death. — Howard Zinn, Passionate Declarations
Society’s awash in morally controversial issues, obviously. To choose only the most conspicuous ones: how may we most reasonably, individually or together, express ourselves, protect ourselves, bring kids into the world, leave it ourselves, punish wrongdoers, even to the point of execution, wage war even at the expense of the innocent, enjoy affluence not enjoyed by others, and which may threaten our shared environment? Our goal as a class will be to develop a systematic approach to such issues, in light of a common concern they reflect: how best do we balance individual rights and the common good, not only lawfully, but with morally-grounded lawfulness? In this spirit, we’ll imagine ourselves as, “Current Social as Moral Issues.”
As such, we’ll actively resist four common pitfalls. It’s not uncommon, on the one hand, to conflate the question of what is or isn’t moral with the question of what is or isn’t legal, hindering us in both arenas. Even once we distinguish them, on the other hand, we may still neglect the foundational role that answering the former plays in answering the latter. In addition, even once we recognize this, we may still address them in isolation, issue by issue, rather than as coalescing into overlapping arcs. Finally, even if we resist all of this, we may still neglect the richness of popular culture, as it addresses, deliberately or otherwise, with varying degrees of subtlety, a wide variety of issues. To this effect, our work together will aim at the intersection of manageable selections of watershed or otherwise provocative philosophical perspectives (in the abortion and euthanasia debates, for example, Judith Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion,” Philippa Foot’s “Euthanasia,” and Ronald Dworkin et al.’s “Physician-assisted Suicide: The Philosophers’ Brief”), legal rulings (in the abortion and euthanasia debates again, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Washington v. Glucksberg), and popular culture (still in the abortion and euthanasia debates, say, Juno and Whose Life is it Anyway?)
We will be as conversational as possible, based on the idea that conflict resolution, philosophical and otherwise, is best done this way. In addition to anticipating being actively involved in a semester-long conversation, participants should anticipate a series of mandatory assessments, in-class or online, and an optional extra-credit writing opportunity.
02 (A. Chorun) In an atmosphere that encourages open thought and questions, we will listen and intentionally focus on ways to listen and converse with those of different opinions. Through class interaction, we will apply existential, Eastern and Western philosophy to injustice and inequity as we perceive and explore it, including the effect of disproportionate power and wealth around the world and the effect of US governmental policy. We will challenge ourselves to self-reflect on social conditioning, confirmation bias, herd mentality, and cultural and educational assumptions, including the internalization and rationalization of conformity. We’ll explore courage and strength in relation to moral action.
- Credits: 3
- Syllabus Disclaimer: The information on this syllabus is subject to change. For up-to-date course information, please refer to the syllabus on your course site (e.g. Canvas) on the first day of class.