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Ethics Reading Courses

Take a deep dive into ethics, one book at a time

No matter how busy you are, you can work ethics into your schedule with a quarter-credit Prindle Ethics Reading Course. In these courses, you’ll read and discuss with your professor and classmates a single work to enhance your understanding of the field of ethics or an individual ethical issue. These quarter-credit ethics reading courses allow students to easily weave an ethics component throughout their curriculum while at DePauw. Consult the Schedule of Courses to register for one of these courses today!

Ethics Reading Courses Information

Students and their professor sit around a wooden table in discussion.
Make ethics a part of your DePauw experience

You can find these courses listed in the Schedule of Courses just like any other class.

Classes meet for the first eight weeks of the semester.

Please note that the information below is subject to change. Consult the Schedule of Courses for the most accurate and updated information.

Fall 2024

Instructor: Dennis Sloan
Text: Dennis Tedlock, Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of the Life and The Glories of the Gods and Kings

Course Description: Popol Vuh, often translated as “Book of the Community” or “Book of Counsel,” is a sacred narrative of the Quiché people of Guatemala—one of the indigenous Maya peoples who inhabit what is now known as Mexico and Central America. A poetic work that includes the Mayan creation story, Popol Vuh was originally recorded in hieroglyphs. After Spanish colonization, in concert with efforts towards converting indigenous populations to Christianity, Popol Vuh was revised multiple times in multiple languages. This course will focus on Dennis Tedlock’s translation, created from a variety of sources, to consider the implications of colonization, religious conversion, and translation on the ethics and worldview of an indigenous population, as well as the ethics of such processes themselves.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Mondays of the Fall 2024 Semester


Instructor: Farah Ali
Text: Koa Beck, White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind
Course Description: Koa Beck defines white feminism as a “type of feminism that takes up the politics of power without questioning them – by replicating patterns of white supremacy, capitalistic greed, corporate ascension, inhumane labor practices, and exploitation, and deeming it empowering for women to practice these tenets as men always have.” Yet this mainstream version of feminism in the West has been defined and dictated by the white women who benefit from it, when, in fact it does little to dismantle patriarchy. In this course, students will explore the history of feminism in the U.S., its “branding” and staunch support of capitalism, and how Indigenous, black, brown, transgender, disabled, and undocumented women have been marginalized and invisibilized by white feminism. Additionally, we will not only interrogate the individualistic notions of liberation that are centered in white feminism, but also discuss how we can work collectively to resist the systems that perpetuate oppression.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Tuesdays of the Fall 2024 Semester


Instructor: Michael Seaman
Text: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
Course Description: This course will look at the war fought between Athens and Sparta during their Golden Age, when both states were at the height of their power. The author of the text, Thucydides, was an Athenian general with a brilliant mind and knew statecraft and warfare very well. He saw immediately that the war would be the greatest and most devastating war that the Greek world had seen up to his day. The text describes how people and states behave in times of peace and during war and explores the use and abuse of power. The course will explore ethical questions related to war, foreign policy, diplomacy, and international relations. Ethical themes to be explored are the strengths and weaknesses of democracy, the relationship between democracy and imperialism, treatment of the defeated in warfare, and the function of warfare in society and its impact on political and social history. Additional topics studied include battle formations, armor, generalship, tactics and strategies, weapon lethality, technology and warfare, siege warfare, civilians in warfare, the economics of war, and laws and rules of engagement.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Thursdays of the Fall 2024 Semester


Instructor: Jessica Mejia
Text: Bernard Suits, The Grasshopper
Course Description: It is platitudinous that we want to live good lives or meaningful lives. But what makes for a good life? What are the features that must be in place so that we can be said to have lived a good life? The Grasshopper is a dialogue on the good life. The main character, Grasshopper, argues that the best life is the life of playing games. What a funny claim! Philosophers have put forth many visions of the good life: the life of knowledge, the life of pleasure, the life of accomplishment, the life of devotion, the life of virtue. In this class, we will evaluate Grasshopper’s argument, alternative visions of the good life, and see what we learn along the way.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Wednesdays of the Fall 2024 Semester


Instructor: Victoria Peters
Text: Amy Koerber, et al., The Predatory Paradox : Ethics, Politics, and Practices in Contemporary Scholarly Publishing
Course Description: Scholarly publishing and academia exist in a symbiotic relationship. What happens when open access publishing disrupts the traditional flow of scholarly communication? This new open mindset developed at the same time as an unethical – and sometimes illegal – threat to the integrity of scholarly publishing, known as predatory publishing. Predatory publishers have created a distrust in the open access sphere, but that isn’t the only barrier. There is also the question of who pays for open access? This course will dive into how open access publishing has brought new perspectives on intellectual property, authorship, and trust in published scholarship.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Wednesdays of the Fall 2024 Semester


Instructor: Angela Castañeda
Text: Tricia Hersey, Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto
Course Description: What would it be like to live in a well-rested world? Does our worth reside in how much we produce? In Rest is Resistance, author Tricia Hersey suggests that we don’t have to be burned out or disconnected from ourselves or those around us – instead she invites us to consider how rest can be a form of justice. She approaches the notion of collective rest as a form of performance art, incorporating elements of Black liberation theology, Afrofuturism and poetry into her messaging. She asks us to consider the relationship between rest and privilege as well as legacies of exhaustion rooted in capitalism and white supremacy. Rest is a radical act, and Hersey’s work invites us to break free from “grind culture” by using rest as the starting point towards healing and justice.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Tuesdays of the Fall 2024 Semester

Spring 2024

Instructor: David Alvarez
Text: Michael J. Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Course Description: This course will consider Sandel’s analysis of 1) the extent to which market norms and ways of thinking have shaped our approach to ethical problems and 2) the difference between having a market economy and being a market society. Sandel’s book poses simple but sharp questions that raise fundamental ethical issues about the proper role of markets in a democratic society. To what extent are market values crowding out civic practices and democratic norms? Can we protect the moral goods that markets do not value? When I taught this book in the spring of ’23, students were especially intrigued by Sandel’s “corruption” objection to applying market thinking to ethical questions. “Markets leave their mark on social norms,” Sandel claims. When something is commodified, its meaning and ethical significance can change. The course is inspired by our Strategic Plan’s vision to think business and leadership through the liberal arts.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: The Prindle Institute
Meeting Time: The first 8 Wednesdays of the Spring 2024 Semester


Instructor: Kayla Flegal
Text: Miroslav Volv, Matthew Croasmun, Ryan McAnnally-Linz, Life Worth Living: A Guide to What Matters Most
Course Description: What makes life good? How have we (individuals, society) determined what is good, true, and right for our lives? These questions do not have answers, but are questions we must ask ourselves to determine where we are, where we are going, where we want to go, and how we might get there. Based on a course they teach at Yale, the three authors present evidence from various traditions and thinkers and leave the hard part, answering The Question, to the individual. This course will explore The Question(s) together as a community, not a group of like-minded individuals but as dynamic friends on varying journeys with different backgrounds and beliefs.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Mondays of the Spring 2024 Semester


Instructor: Yao Li
Text: Yu Hua, To Live
Course Description: Originally banned in China but now called “A Chinese Book of Job”, Yu Hua’s To Live presents a contemporary Chinese society, where after the dramatic highs and lows and all sorts of sufferings and protests, people are still determined to live humanely. The story of one person is the story of every person in China. We may gain a better understanding on how China’s social value system changes, and what could be the key factors in the changing process.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Thursdays of the Spring 2024 Semester


Instructor: Humberto Barreto
Text: John Early, Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate
Course Description: This course examines Gramm, Ekelund, and Early’s contrarian book, The Myth of American Inequality. They disagree with the general consensus and claim inequality in the distribution of income and wealth in the United States is misunderstood, mismeasured, and has not been rising. The book is grounded in numbers and data analyses, but we will also discuss philosophical arguments (e.g., Rawls and Nozick) and theories of inequality.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: The Prindle Institute
Meeting Time: The first 8 Tuesdays of the Spring 2024 Semester


Instructor: Joseph Porter
Text: Jane Austen, Emma
Course Description: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a liberal arts college in possession of a Jane Austen novel must be in want of a book club. In this Prindle reading course, we will explore Emma—by many accounts, Austen’s most mature work—with a special focus on the ethical questions it raises about sex, social class, love, relationships, and much more.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: The Prindle Institute
Meeting Time: The first 8 Tuesdays of the Spring 2024 Semester


Instructor: David Gellman
Text: Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Course Description: How did Abraham Lincoln become the ‘great emancipator’? To answer that question, we have to remove Lincoln from his monumental perch and consider him as a human being. We have to trade hero-worship for history. Fortunately, we have Eric Foner, the greatest living historian of the U.S., and his multi-prize-winning book The Fiery Trial to guide our discussion of how slavery finally came to an end. This book is clear-eyed about how Lincoln came to play a leadership role in this enormously consequential, but painfully incomplete historical transformation. Foner writes that “Lincoln’s career was a process of moral and political education.” Confronting Lincoln’s flaws, shortcomings, contradictions, and blind-spots, as well as probing the sources of his unparalleled accomplishments, we will undertake a moral and political education of our own. We gain a deeper appreciation for the moral potential and moral limitations of political leadership. And in so doing, we become better equipped to battle the evils that plague our own times—from the continuing racist legacies of slavery to the climate crisis.
Course Limit: 10
Prerequisites: None
Pass/Fail Option: Yes
Eligibility: Anyone
Location: Campus
Meeting Time: The first 8 Thursdays of the Spring 2024 Semester

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