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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

A professor and some of her students seated around a table in a heated 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.

Spring 2022

For meeting times and the most up-to-date information on these courses, please consult the Schedule of Courses.

UNIV291A: Angela Saini, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story
Instructor: Nipun Chopra

Angela Saini’s novel – a worthy companion for her book Superior, forces us to recognize the sexist and misogynist history of scientific thought and processes in the 19th and 20th century. The book begins with detailing how everyday sexism resulted in Charles Darwin setting the groundwork for inequity along the grounds of “natural science.” Each chapter dissects ideas that society took for granted about the purported differences between men and women, and evaluates the scientific congruity of those ideas. We will dissect the origins and future of an inherently sexist question that is still being asked today (though in more hushed tones than in yesteryear) – are there neuroscientific differences between men and women? Finally, in chapter 8, we will discuss the controversial “grandmother hypothesis.”

UNIV291B: Nicole Twiley and Geoff Manaugh, Until Proven Save: The History and Future of Quarantine
Instructor: Lydia Marshall

In many ways, the age of COVID-19 feels completely new. It has unmoored us–undercutting our sense of safety and radically redefining normalcy. It has changed how we learn, live, and engage with the world. But, in fact, one of the primary weapons against COVID-19, quarantine, has a longer and wider history of use, extending far beyond the current pandemic. Quarantine differs from isolation in that it does not sequester infected individuals but, rather, individuals (people or plants or animals) who may be infected. Because of this uncertainty, quarantine is not only a powerful tool but also a potentially dangerous one, vulnerable to abuse and misapplication. In this course we will ask, when and how is it ethical to enforce quarantine? What does quarantine “cost” and who bears these costs? If quarantine is applied in a way that perpetuates social inequities but still save lives, is it ethical? Some of the cases analyzed in this book (e.g., Ellis Island, COVID-19) will be familiar to students. We will also discuss food security, nuclear waste, electronic surveillance, globalization, and space exploration. This course will ultimately challenge students to consider the balance between a right to free movement and a need for governance and collective responsibility in the face of uncertain and unknown threats.

UNIV291C: Ruha Benjamin, Race after Technology. Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code
Instructor: Katalin Kis

Do technologies such as photography or predictive algorithms represent reality as it is? How are free speech and hate speech enabled and limited on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook? What role do automated decision-making systems play in areas such as criminal justice, healthcare, employment, or education? Can and should technologies erase or at least minimize human bias? Can robots be racist? This course will discuss what it means to live in an “algorithmic culture”, and more specifically, how seemingly objective technologies are inextricably linked with and may perpetuate social injustice and inequalities. Our ultimate goal will be to explore ethical ways to design, navigate, and control digital technologies.

UNIV291D: Gillian Rose, Love’s Work
Instructor: Yeshua Tolle

Love’s Work is British philosopher Gillian Rose’s last testament, a memoir of an examined life written in the face of death. Rose, who died from ovarian cancer in 1995 at age 48 and whose work remains highly esteemed, turns a lifetime of “unhappy love affairs” into a narrative meditation on the ethics of loving and being loved. The book invites readers to see how ethics and philosophy develop out of lived experience—and how these can also fall short of the complexity of that experience. In moving, ironic accounts of her upbringing and love life, bodily change and disability, Rose retraverses her philosophical work, revealing the imprint of debates over politics, society, and power on daily life. From feminism to Judaism, the AIDS crisis to disability, Love’s Work touches on themes still relevant today, all linked to Rose’s readings of Hegel, Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, the Church fathers, and postmodern philosophy and social theory. Her philosophically charged memoir challenges us to find in the bruising, ethically demanding experience of love—love of friend and family, enemy and partner, and, above of all, love of oneself—the means to participate in a world that stuns and outstrips our ethical capacities. It sets a challenge to study ethics and philosophy, to connect love of knowledge to love of self and other, and yet to maintain a bitter but undespairing recognition that love is not always enough to save us. To quote Rose: “If [philosophy] is . . . the perception of the difficulty of the law, the difficult way, then ethics is . . . being at a loss yet exploring various routes, different ways towards the good enough justice.”

UNIV291E: Dean Spade, Mutual Aid
Instructor: Caitlin Howlett

Dean Spade’s Mutual Aid offers an opportunity for reflecting on and building upon histories of social justice movements in the United States by centering the question of how they might inform grassroots organizing in our current global context. Speaking directly of those whose experiences are structured by intersecting systems of violence, Spade proposes a new framework for thinking about and practicing coalition and alliance building. As we work through this text, we will engage in questions about the moral obligations we have to each other (known or unknown) and the possibility of unified yet differentiated resistance as a means of bringing about a less violent future.

UNIV291F: John Baugh, Linguistics in Pursuit of Justice
Instructor: Farah Ali

What does language have to do with liberty and justice for all? In this course, students examine the linguistic dimensions of sociohistorical, economic, and racial inequality, and how our language use is situated in linguistic stratification and subordination, which can ultimately be a means of exclusion, discrimination, and disadvantage. Using John Baugh’s text as a guide, we will explore social justice through a forensic linguistic lens as we examine criminal case studies in which linguistic analysis played a pivotal role in the outcomes. Finally, we will also explore how to advance linguistic justice through alternative linguistic experimentation and evaluation.

Key moral questions: What role does language play in mediating social (in)equality? How does linguistic diversity mediate social justice? Can the science of linguistics promote justice and eliminate injustice?

UNIV291G: John Green, The Anthropocene Reviewed: essays on a Human-Centered Planet
Instructor: Tim Good

“In the anthropocene, there are no disinterested observers. There are only participants.” The anthropocene is a proposed term for the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet. Our biggest problem is other people, because we are reliant on them and vulnerable to them. But imagine if you are a creek, or a corn field, or a deer; your biggest problem is still people.

UNIV291H: Bryan Doerries, All That You’ve Seen Here is God
Instructor: Caroline Good

Through Bryan Doerries’ contemporary and poetic translations of four Greek tragedies (Ajax, Philoctetes, Prometheus Bound, and Women of Trachis) in his anthology All That You’ve Seen Here Is God, we will attempt to connect across time and examine the universal themes and ethical questions that surround war, trauma, suffering, dying with dignity, punishment, and betrayal.

From Sophocles’ searing portrait of Ajax–a warrior struggling with the invisible wounds of war–it seems clear that psychological injury (PTSD), was a persistent issue for warriors 2500 years ago as much as today.” As we explore Ajax, we will examine and question the ethics of war, of sending troops into (and leaving troops in) Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia, to name a few, for the purposes of “national security” and “national interests,” the training of these soldiers, the treatment and care for those who come home completely changed, and whether or not the generals in charge have the best interests of their soldiers and the many affected civilians in mind. We will examine the ethics of a health care system and the state of “public health” that “leave behind” the Philocteteses of today on an “island of isolation” and with little to no access to quality and affordable healthcare. Through examining Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, we will explore the ethical disparities of solitary confinement and the prison system, the ramifications of the 1994 crime bill, and the school to prison pipeline. And, finally with The Women of Trachis, we will dig deep into questioning the the core principles of euthanasia, medical treatments that lessen the quality of life, and a person’s right to “die with dignity” as Heracles begs his son to be his “doctor” by helping him to die in peace rather than to face unbearable suffering.

UNIV291J: Dan Hicks, Brutish Museums
Instructors: Nicole Lobdell and Rebecca Schindler

In Brutish Museums, Dan Hicks, professor of Contemporary Archaeology at Oxford and curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, relates the tale of the Benin Bronzes, cultural heritage which British forces brutally pillaged from Benin City, Nigeria, in 1897 and which are now distributed across museums in the U.K., the U.S., and Europe. Brutish Museums asks readers to confront the ways in which museums have been complicit in constructing and maintaining cultural hierarchies, and shows readers that museums are not neutral spaces. Do occupying forces have an obligation to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts? What are the ethics of conservation of art and culture during wartime? Who decides whether or not a museum should return art and artifacts to their country of origins? And, what do we do if art and artifacts cannot be returned? This course will examine these ethical questions and others raised by Dan Hicks in Brutish Museums. This course will appeal to students interested in ethics, art, archeology, museum studies, history, and cultural studies.

UNIV291K: T.M. Scanlon, Why Does Inequality Matter?
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest

“People have good reason to wish that their own lives were better. But what reason do they have to be concerned with the difference between their lives and the lives of others?” This course will consider why the high levels of inequality in the US (as well as the world) might represent a moral harm and what kind of redress those disparities might demand. Are we simply motivated by envy? Or are there legitimate moral reasons — regarding status, opportunity, or desert — that might explain the outrage we feel when observing the vast differences in wealth and well-being between individuals?

UNIV291M: Kwame Ture and Charles Hamilton, The Politics of Liberation
Instructor: Brian MacNeel

Using Ture and Hamilton’s Black Power: The Politics of Liberation as our guide, this course will reckon with notions of political representation in both historical and contemporary contexts. We will also examine Ture and Hamilton’s suggestions for effective methods in dismantling white supremacy beyond political representation. Finally we will analyze and question the ways expectations of nonviolence have colored our perception of Civil Rights and equality for marginalized communities in the United States.

UNIV291N: Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem
Instructor: Sherry Mou

The peril of the earth is imminent. And the invading alien Trisolarans from the planet Trisolaris brilliantly use a virtual-reality video game both to show the inevitability of the total destruction of earth and to recruit earthlings to be their spokespeople. Elite members from all walks of life join the game and try to stop the end of civilization, assuming roles from ancient time to the present: Von Neumann, Einstein, Leibniz, Newton, Copernicus, the First Emperor of China, Master Mo, Aristotle, and many others. It may be too late. Humans’ cruelty to one another, to the environment, and to other species through their selfishness, greed, and ignorance have sealed their own fate. In fact, one who despairs at humanity’s own stupidity invited the Trisolarans to eradicate the species altogether. The ending of the book invites serious consideration: The Trisolarans are on their way, but the inter-galaxy journey will take 450 years. What can we do during this four-and-a-half century window?

UNIV291O: Michael Blake, Justice, Migration, and Mercy
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest

“The people who have the strongest moral right to migrate are precisely those whose other rights are most poorly defended; those most excludable are precisely those least excluded today.” This course will explore a number of competing theories regarding the state’s moral right to exclude outsiders. We’ll examine the various justifications that have been offered, and assess their benefits as well as their limitations. Might frameworks focusing exclusively on questions of who has which rights or what impartial justice demands fail to represent all that philosophy can tell us on this issue?

UNIV291P: August Wilson, Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Instructor: Ronald Dye

In this course students will read the published stage play scripts of two August Wilson plays, “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and will also view the corresponding film adaptations of the same works. August Wilson is one of the most influential playwrights of the last century, and his multi-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” (which includes “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) chronicles the lives, culture and trials of African-American families in different decades of the twentieth century. Students will discuss and write short papers about the ethical and moral dimensions of social inequalities as depicted in the two plays and films, and will relate the subject matter of the works to contemporary social issues today.

UNIV291Q: Confucius, The Analects
Instructor: Yu-Hsin Lin

Do you have any questions in life? Confucius might have an answer for you! Confucius is arguably the greatest Chinese educator and philosopher of all time. Although he passed away around 2,500 years ago, his thoughts still have a great impact on how people think and act today in many parts of Asia and beyond. In this course, we will learn Confucius’s views on human relationships from The Analects. We will also use The Analects as a reference to reflect on our own self-development and interpersonal relationships, and how we fulfill our roles in society today.

UNIV291R: Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Instructor: Aldrin Magaya

The past few years have witnessed major cultural, social, and political shifts in debates and conversations about equality, freedoms, and structural racism, not only in the United States but around the world. In South Africa, violent and peaceful protests erupted, all clamoring for change and social justice. Social and hashtag movements such as #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall hogged the limelight. These social movements speak to the current socio-economic and political situation and the history of the apartheid’s structural violence in South Africa. In this course, we will use comedy and the everyday experiences of a young boy to explore the history of discrimination, injustice, and racism. We will explore how young South Africans experienced discrimination in schools, shopping malls, and their neighborhoods. We will also examine why political leaders tend to ignore the views and experiences of young African people in discussions of discrimination/racism.

UNIV291S: Daniel T. Immerwahr, How To Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
Instructor: Sarah Rowley

Americans like to think of their country as a republic rather than an empire. But the historian Daniel Immerwahr encourages us to consider the role that assumptions of goodness have played in both U.S. policy and in historical memory. In reading his book How To Hide an Empire, we will move beyond the mainland and delve into the histories of territories such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines, charting the changing meanings of empire, globalization, nation, and power over the past two centuries. This course will connect culture and politics, considering how discourses and policies have shaped both the U.S. in the world and the national stories we tell. We will consider a wide range of places and topics often marginalized in U.S. history, from bat guano and oil to birth control and race science.

UNIV291T: Natsume Soseki, Kokoro
Instructor: Nagi Fujie

Natsume Soseki is one of the greatest authors from Meiji era (1868-1912) Japan. One of his major novels, Kokoro, is a fictional novel written nearly a century ago (1914) reflecting the atmosphere of Meiji Era Japan. However, Kokoro portrays human natures, values, and questions toward life that are still relevant in today’s society: How do we form friendship? How do one perceive a master-pupil relationship? How is a trust formed between people? How do we seek value and meaning in our lives? Thorough reading of Kokoro will allow students to see perspectives on such questions, and the class discussions will allow students to critically rethink such questions and values while forming their own perspectives.

UNIV291U: Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
Instructor: Z. Sylvia Yang

This Prindle reading course introduces students to the ethical questions and issues connected with information and algorithmic bias. As Noble states in Algorithms of Oppression, “Search does not merely present pages but structures knowledge, and the results retrieved in a commercial search engine create their own particular material reality. Ranking is itself information that also reflects the political, social, and cultural values of the society that search engines operate within…” (Noble, 148). The assigned text, along with brief secondary readings to help students contextualize the issues raised in the main readings, will prompt us to ask important ethical questions about information, algorithmic bias, and the role technology has “knowing and relating” to ourselves, our culture, and society.

UNIV291V: Charles Taylor, A Secular Age
Instructor: David Alvarez

Our book is hugely influential and has become a key text for “secular studies.” One core claim in Taylor’s book is that we have incorrectly understood secularization in terms of a “subtraction story”: the idea that the secular is what naturally remains after religion has been scraped away (i.e., subtracted). Taylor criticizes such stories on the grounds that they misrepresent “newly constructed self-understandings and related practices” for “perennial features of human life” that “were there all along, but had been impeded” by “certain earlier, confining horizons or illusions” (22). For Taylor, such approaches to the historical formation of the secular elide the social construction of secular habits, outlooks, and—of key concern for this course–its ethical framework. Our goal will be to understand and assess Taylor’s analysis of the secular. We will carefully consider both the place of ethics in his historical analysis of the secular and the ethical implications of his claims. Taylor’s argument is intriguing not only because he tracks the formation of the secular in terms of the development of what he terms the “Modern Moral Order” but also because of his methodology, which seeks to excavate the “deeper normative notions and images” that always inform the unexamined background of a society’s common understandings (171).

Fall 2021 Ethics Reading Courses

For meeting times and the most up-to-date information on these courses, please consult the Schedule of Courses.

UNIV291A: Timothy Murphy, Case Studies in Biomedical Research Ethics
Instructor: Nipun Chopra

The history of biomedical research has shown us that while biomedical science aims to improve the overall lives and health of our species, the subdiscipline is riddled with horrific errors of questionable ethical behavior. Examples range from Mengele’s experiments, via Tuskegee trials and questionable primate experiments. We will explore the lessons we can learn from these stories by reading and discussing similar case studies.

Key moral questions: Are our current approaches to biomedical research ethical and appropriate? Are ethical parameters for research permanent or constantly changing? What do the case studies discussed herein teach us about the ever-evolving nature of what is ethically appropriate in biomedical research? What are some actionable changes we need to make to improve the current ethical boundaries of biomedical research, viz a viz, human and animal research?

UNIV291B: David Luban, Legal Ethics and Human Dignity
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest

“Law is not a body of statutes or doctrines; rather, it is the activity of lawyers as architects of social structure.” This course will take up a number of questions concerning the philosophy of law: What is the primary value of the rule of law? What necessary role do lawyers’ everyday activity play? How do the unique contours of the legal system we share help or hinder our conception of human dignity? We’ll explore how the everyday work of ordinary lawyers in run-of-the-mill cases shape our legal, moral, and social reality.

Key moral questions: What is the goal of our legal system? What role do lawyers play in defining and communicating that purpose? Can we understand our everyday legal practice as dedicated to anything as grand as the defense of human dignity?

UNIV291C: Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction
Instructor: Steven Bogaerts

How might society devise a universal standard for evaluating and comparing teachers and educational institutions? How can society develop a bias-free job interview process, or criminal justice system? How can society ensure that low wage workers are treated humanely, or that future housing loan crises are averted? Attempts exist to address these issues and many more through data models and algorithmic decision making. This course explores how such approaches, while offering some successes, can also create ethical dilemmas, reflect human biases, create vicious cycles of oppression, and punish people that are the exception. Course material is centered on Cathy O’Neil’s book on this subject, Weapons of Math Destruction. The course content is designed to be accessible to all DePauw students, regardless of major or background.

UNIV291D: Jaipreet Virdi, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History
Instructor: Nicole Lobdell

The 2020 reality TV show Deaf U on Netflix, a show about the lives of deaf and hard of hearing college students, along with celebrity deaf interpreters such as David Cowan, whose joyful ASL interpreting of Beyonce songs at Atlanta’s Pride Festival made him a viral sensation in 2019, have brought new attention and visibility to Deaf culture. When she was four years old, Jaipreet Virdi lost her hearing to meningitis, leaving her in an “aural limbo” between the Deaf community and the hearing majority. In Hearing Happiness, she examines deafness in American culture and “the endless quest for a cure” through 200 years of medical treatments for deafness, including ear trumpets, bloodletting, electrotherapy, and digital hearing aids. Through her research, Virdi comes to new realizations about her identity as a deaf person and American society’s understanding of Deaf culture; but, she asks, why are we obsessed with “cures” for deafness? Why are we obsessed with making hearing aids invisible rather than fashionable accessories like eyeglasses? This course will take up Virdi’s questions and also ask, how is identity shaped by ability and disability? What does citizenship, or belonging, mean in the context of disability communities? What are the material and immaterial costs of deafness in American society today? This text and course will appeal to students interested in ethics, the history of medicine and technology, disability studies, and literature.

Key moral questions: What does citizenship, or belonging, mean in the context of disability communities? How is identity shaped by ability and disability? What kind of responsibility do the hearing majority have to the Deaf community? What form does, or should, that responsibility take? Why? Has it changed as a result of COVID-19? What constitutes a “cure,” and why are we obsessed with “cures” for deafness? What are the material and immaterial costs of deafness in American society today?

UNIV291E: Chris Hedges, America: The Farewell Tour
Instructor: Tim Good

What does “freedom” mean to you? Freedom from what? Freedom to do what? Who is included in the term “freedom?” Chris Hedges uses Anderson, Indiana as a microcosm to examine the many causes of the unraveling of our national social fabric, and challenges our complacency in the face of such complex and difficult problems.

Key moral questions: What is the nature of “freedom,” and what do we mean when we use the term? Freedom from what? Freedom to do what? Is freedom a right? If so, for whom? “Freedom” is the title of Hedges’ final chapter of this book, and he approaches the question from economic, sociologic, and political points of view.

UNIV291F: Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Instructor: David Alvarez

Hannah Arendt’s account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a major figure in the organization of the Holocaust, is perhaps best known for the phrase she coined to understand his actions: “the banality of evil.” Why would anyone describe the Holocaust as an example of “the banality of evil”? This course will examine how Arendt thinks about moral responsibility and obedience, with a focus on her claims about how the ways we use language can destroy our capacity for ethical thinking. Arendt criticizes Eichmann’s reliance on clichés as a substitute for thinking, and we’ll consider how her criticism of the banality of his language relates to her claims about the banality of evil. Since Arendt argues that Eichmann’s language stifled his capacity for ethical thinking, we’ll also consider how her own writing seeks to counter banality and to promote forms of reflection, forms that ethical thinking in modernity requires but that the forces of modernity thwart.

Key moral questions: Hannah Arendt’s account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a major figure in the organization of the Holocaust, is perhaps best known for the phrase she coined to understand his actions: “the banality of evil.” This course will examine how Arendt thinks about moral responsibility and obedience, with a focus on her claims about how the ways we use language can destroy our capacity for ethical thinking. Arendt criticizes Eichmann’s reliance on clichés as a substitute for thinking, and we’ll consider how her criticism of the banality of his language relates to her claims about the banality of evil. Since Arendt argues that Eichmann’s language stifled his capacity for ethical thinking, we’ll also consider how her own writing seeks to counter banality and to promote forms of reflection, forms that ethical thinking in modernity requires but that the forces of modernity thwart. Finally, Arendt frequently engages with Kant—to whom Eichmann appealed to justify his actions—so we’ll also consider her ethical claims in relation to his thinking.

UNIV291G: Elvia Alvarado, Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado
Instructor: Caroline Good

“This is the story of Elvia Alvarado in her own words, a campesina struggling for women’s rights and land reform in Honduras, and her fight against the long-term effects of U.S. hegemony in Central America. It is her story, but it is a story that intersects with so many aspects of living under intense poverty with a widening wealth gap, under the thumb of a powerful landowning elite, and living amidst an ever-growing presence of the U.S. military.
According to the Global Exchange’s fact sheet on Alvarado, “Honduras is the poorest country in Central America, with the top 10% of the population receiving 50% of the net income, and the bottom 20% receiving 30%. Starting in 1980, presidents Reagan and Bush considered Honduras crucial to maintaining U.S. control in Central America. It thus became the object of massive U.S. military aid that led to wide-spread military corruption. Those who opposed U.S. aid were labelled communists, and, for the first time in Honduran history, human rights abuses – including disappearances, assassinations, secret detention centers and cemeteries, and the torture of prisoners – became common.”

As a class, we will examine the ethical dilemmas and human rights issues facing the long reach of U.S. control in not only Honduras, but also in Central America and around the world where Elvia’s story is one of many. As a means of connecting to these stories, students will have the opportunity to discuss, debate, explore, and devise creative pieces or research projects through a variety of mediums that attempt to bring these struggles to life.”

Key moral questions: What economic and geopolitical drivers have prompted the role of U.S. hegemony in Central America? Has the U.S. “aid” and NGO presence in Honduras and Central America really helped the people of Honduras? How instrumentally has the political intervention and presence of the U.S. military caused hardship for campesinos and the working poor in the region? Does the U.S. have an ethical standing on this intervention in Honduras, or any other sovereign country within “its” hemisphere, by portraying as communist any anti-U.S. sentiment among campesinos, workers, and the poor? How have U.S. policies favored the landowning elite and transnational corporations operating in Honduras and how has that presence exasperated the Honduran campesinos’ daily struggles? What is the intersectionality between U.S. imperialism, globalization, and neoliberal policies and the high level of immigration from Central American countries to the U.S. border? How can we address the lack of accountability for the immigration influx from these countries ravaged by U.S imperialist policy? Since the writing of the book in 1989, has the quality of life in Honduras deteriorated even further through more recent U.S policies such as NAFTA, the U.S. supported coup in 2008, and Trump’s immigration rhetoric?

UNIV291H: Thomas Hurka, The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters
Instructor: Jessica Mejía

What makes a life good or meaningful? In this course, we will explore various prominent candidates for the good life: the life of pleasure, the life of knowledge (intellectual pursuit), the life of achievement, the life of moral virtue, life of love. Thomas Hurka argues that the good life includes all of those elements. Is he right? We will explore this and other questions in our course.

Key moral questions: What makes life good or meaningful? Is one kind of life better than others? Does the best life include a plurality of values or is one value more important than the others in a good life?

Spring 2021 Ethics Reading Courses

UNIV291A: Jeremy Waldron, Political Political Theory
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest

“Even if our main preoccupation remains with justice, liberty, security, and equality, we still need to compliment that work with an understanding of the mechanisms through which these ideals–these ends of life–will be pursued.” This course will focus on the democratic and legal institutions we employ in the hopes of realizing our moral values. The central question the course will explore concerns how we might balance our search for abstract ethical principles with the need for answers to the applied ethics and legal quandaries confronting us today.

  • Key moral questions: How should we strike the right balance between ideal theory and non-ideal theory? How should we balance the search for abstract principles of liberty, justice, and equality with the need for answers to applied ethics questions today?

UNIV291B: Richard Bach, Illusions and Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Instructor: Tim Good

The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while, and watch your answers change. Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours. You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.

  • Key moral questions: What is the source of limitations? To what degree do we have any agency in freeing ourselves from limitations, or are the external circumstances of our birth and existence the real authors of our lives? Bach uses these two shorter works to encourage us to seek a freedom from limitation within our interdependence on one another. He’s also simplistic at times, and the class will get to interrogate the privilege of his position.

UNIV291C: Confucius, trans. DC Lau, The Analects
Instructor: Yu-Hsin Lin

Do you have any questions in life? Confucius might have an answer for you! Confucius is arguably the greatest Chinese educator and philosopher of all time. Although he passed away around 2,500 years ago, his thoughts still have a great impact on how people think and act today in many parts of Asia and beyond. In this course, we will learn Confucius’s views on human relationships from The Analects. We will also use The Analects as a reference to reflect on our own self-development and interpersonal relationships, and how we fulfill our roles in society today.

  • Key moral questions: The Analects have had a great impact on the way people think in China and other East Asian countries for more than 1,000 years. The book presents Confucian views on how we should live as an ethical human being. Through a close reading of The Analects, we will discuss the Confucian ideals of human relationships, including how we should fulfill our roles in society, and how we should think and act in various situations in life. Although modern society has gone through huge changes since Confucius’s era, we still encounter similar moral questions as human beings. Students in this course will be able to use The Analects as a reference to learn how and why people in Confucian societies make certain moral choices and to reflect on their own moral bearings in life.

UNIV291D: Angela Saini, Superior: The return of race-based science
Instructor: Nipun Chopra

Angela Saini’s provocative novel forces us to recognize the explicitly racist history of 19th and 20th century Biology, and recognize how it has essentially armed implicit racism today. The book begins with the then-accepted-science of phrenology and how it was used to justify racist and xenophobic practices. The book explores the dark side of one of the greatest discoveries in Biology – the gene. And how genetics – and world-famous geneticists – propagated scientifically exaggerated or inaccurate ideas to eventually validate eugenics. Finally, we will dissect the origins and future of an inherently racist question that is still being asked today – whether one race is genetically superior or inferior to another? Via this journey, we come to a larger conversation on whether or not there truly is a biological underpinning of race.

  • Key moral questions: Based on the lessons we’ve learned from Saini’s book, is it ethical to study the biological underpinnings of race? Based on the lessons we’ve learned from Saini’s book, how do we begin to undo the decades of damage caused by race-based genetics?

UNIV291E: Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk about Racism
Instructor: Christina Holmes

We will discuss the books primarily through the lens of campus climate and diversity issues and Black Lives Matter protests, but we will also historicize social movement fractures (most notably between Black abolitionists and white abolitionist/suffragettes in the US; fractures in the Civil Rights and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s; fractures of women’s and lesbian movements in the 1980s and 90s along racial lines). The debate about whether “Naked Athena” and the wall of moms in the Portland protests against anti-Black violence is distracting from the message about racial injustice is just the most recent example of how would-be allies can fail. Feminist, anti-racist praxis emphasizes the need to center Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) experiences as well as social movement strategies and theories produced by BIPOC scholars and activists. Given the centering of BIPOC folx and the necessary decentering of whiteness and white activists, our primary ethical consideration is how white-identifying people ought to support a movement for Black lives. What kind of work should racially over-privileged people engage in to challenge racist socialization? And if white identifying people don’t share experiences of racial oppression with people of color and it is unjust to expect “the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes,” what ought racially privileged people do to learn about what they don’t know (Lorde 1984)? As white identifying people, how should we use unearned privilege to “find our place on the new frontlines” of racial justice (Arnold 2020)?

  • Key moral questions: What kind of work should racially over-privileged people engage in to challenge racist socialization? And if white identifying people don’t share experiences of racial oppression with people of color and it is unjust to expect “the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes,” what ought racially privileged people do to learn about what they don’t know (Lorde 1984)? As white identifying people, how should we use unearned privilege to “find our place on the new frontlines” of racial justice (Arnold 2020)?

UNIV291F: Anthony B. Pinn, Terror and Triumph: The Nature of Black Religion
Instructor: Nathanael Homewood

Using Pinn’s groundbreaking text, Terror and Triumph, as a guide, this course will explore African American religion and its intersection(s) with contemporary activist movements, art, in human suffering, and in human flourishing.

  • Key moral questions: This course will explore a variety of ethical and moral questions around issues of race, suffering, historical trauma, and the possibilities and problems of religion in answering such questions.

UNIV291G: Luke Dittrich, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets
Instructor: Jessica Mejía

On September 1, 1953, Henry Molaison underwent an experimental procedure to attempt to abate the severe seizures that he’d been suffering for the majority of his life. The procedure, which involved removing brain tissue, succeeded in reducing the seizures but it had the side effect of Molaison losing his memory. His condition eventually made him an important subject of medical and psychological research in the 20th century and he was given the pseudonym, Patient H.M.. While the book, Patient H.M., tells Molaison’s story as well as that of several other people who either underwent neurosurgery or suffered brain injuries, the book follows the career of one of the surgeons who operated on Henry Molaison, the neurosurgeon William Beecher Scoville. Scoville was probably the most prolific lobotomy surgeon in the early to mid 20th century. Patient H.M is written by Scoville’s grandson, Luke Dittrich. The story raises a host of ethical questions regarding the treatment of patients and research subjects whose ability to give consent is questionable to highly questionable and the experimental culture of medicine and psychology in which prominent researchers participated. Additionally, Dittrich explores his family’s history raising moral questions about the public airing of private and painful family stories of psychological distress. In this course, we will consider these questions and others.

  • Key moral questions: Is it permissible to publicize private, painful family stories such as this one? Was Henry Molaison treated well? How about the other patients and research participants? Was the experimental culture good? What is the moral significance of memory?

UNIV291H: Jessica Bylander and Abraham
Verghese, eds, Narrative Matters: Writing to Change the Health Care System
Instructor: Nicole Lobdell

This Prindle reading course introduces students to the ethical questions and issues connected with the study, practice, and experience of medicine and the healthcare system. At this historic moment of COVID-19 and the global pandemic, we need stories. We need to hear the stories of patients, their families, and the medical staff and examine the ways in which patient-centered care and discriminations and disparities within the healthcare system affect everyone involved. Our main text Narrative Matters: Writing to Change the Health Care System includes short personal essays and reflections from doctors, nurses, patients, researchers, and scholars working within the healthcare system and medical research today. It includes a transgender doctor fighting for the treatment and dignity of trans patients; a Black Alzheimer patient who wants to be part of the cure; family members taking care of elderly parents and grandparents; and leading researchers in the fight against cancer. These readings will prompt us to ask important ethical questions about life and death, the limits of medical research, the discriminations and disparities in medical education, and the inequities of medical access and health care for patients today. This text and course will appeal to students interested in ethics, literature, history, global health, and medical science.

  • Key moral questions: Is health care a basic human right? If so, are there limits to health care today? What ethical responsibility does the American healthcare system have to its patients and staff? Who should control choices made within the American healthcare system? Patients? Medical staff? Policy makers? Who should control medical decisions for patients? Patients themselves? Medical Staff? Insurers? Patients’ families? In general, do we need suffering to compel change? In medicine specifically? How should we tell the stories of patients, their families, and medical staff?

UNIV291J: Cord J. Whitaker, Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking
Instructor: Tamara Stasik

In the late Middle Ages, Christian conversion could wash a black person’s skin white—or at least that is what happens when a black sultan converts to Christianity in the late medieval English romance the King of Tars. The sensational transformation, however, is not what it might at first appear to be. Following Toni Morrison’s recent study of skin color as a metaphor in her book Playing in the Dark, Cord Whitaker examines the relationship between Christian identity and the normativity of European whiteness and argues that the profound anxiety about black characters found in English literature has its roots in the Middle Ages.

Our Prindle reading course examines Whitaker’s discussion of black metaphors in medieval literature and the textual moments in which black skin paradoxically signifies sameness and otherness, spiritual purity and sinfulness, salvation and damnation. We will ask how this perception of blackness influenced moral behavior in the West– Europe and the Americas- where it comes from, why white fear of and oppression and violence toward blacks made people of color the symbol of evil, and how it can help equip us to recognize current racist rhetoric in modern popular culture, politics, religion or elsewhere.

Whether you are interested in philosophy, popular culture, journalism, religion, history, literature, activism, or community organizing, this class is for you.

  • Key moral questions: How does writing and rhetorical influence moral action? How does reading examples of black metaphors in medieval literature help us understand whites’ fear of and oppression and violence toward blacks? How can they help equip us to recognize current racist rhetoric in modern popular culture, politics, religion?

UNIV291K: Excerpts from Cultural Legacies of the Great Migration Symposium
Instructors: Tamara Stasik and Ronald Dye

This Prindle Reading Course provides space for students to come together and learn more deeply about our longstanding issues of racial and cultural conflict while exploring the legacy of the Great Migration.

We will examine how a leaderless quest for freedom and social justice left legacies on culture, influencing perceptions on race, class, and politics. We will read texts on Blues great and troubled soul Robert Johnson, on tracing the Civil Rights Trail and landmarks on the way to freedom, on the first Afircan American Woman Millionaire Madam CJ Walker, and how one young woman traces her ancestral place in the flow of six million African Americans, to provide us glimpses into the motivations and perseverance that influenced the Civil Rights Movement and current issues of conflict and im/migration.

  • Key moral questions: How do these narratives of the Great Migration reflect or explain the struggle against social oppression, discrimination and margination? What values or principles became so important that a whole swath of Americans moved, leaderless, out of the South? What deeply held and widely shared norms and rules within communities contributed or inhibited cultural growth and transformation? How can they help us understand the purpose and role of reform and revolution for African Americans, and to live with others who might not share these same values?

Fall 2020 Ethics Reading Courses

UNIV291A: Frans de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug
Instructor: Nipun Chopra

UNIV291B: Omid Safi (ed.), Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism
Instructor: Jeffrey Kenney

UNIV291C: Mathias Thaler, Naming Violence
Instructor: Caitlin Howlett

UNIV291D: Ronald Dworkin, Law’s Empire
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest

UNIV291E: Jane Bennett and Sylvia Tamale, Research on Gender and African Sexualities
Instructor: Aldrin Magaya

UNIV291F: Nannerl O. Keohane, Thinking About Leadership
Instructor: Andy Cullison

UNIV291G: John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks
Instructor: Tamara Pollack

UNIV291H: Robert Nozick, Anarchy, the State, and Utopia
Instructor: Jessica Mejía

UNIV291J: Robin diAngelo, What Does It Mean To Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy
Instructor: Tim Good

UNIV291K: Howard Zinn, A People’s History of American Empire
Instructor: Caroline Good

Spring 2020 Ethics Reading Courses

UNIV291A: Timothy Murphy, Case Studies in Biomedical Research Ethics
Instructor: Nipun Chopra
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 135) the first eight Thursdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291B: Bert Ashe, Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles
Instructor: Logan Dandridge
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 135) the first eight Wednesdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291C: Noam Chomsky, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power
Instructor: Tim Good
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room TBD) the first eight Thursdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291D: Richard A. Oppenlander, Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet
Instructor: Caroline Good
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 138) the first eight Wednesdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291E: Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 135) the first eight Mondays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291F: Kirk Wallace Johnson, The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
Instructor: Lydia Marshall
Meets in Asbury Hall 009 the first eight Tuesdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291G: Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
Instructor: Nicole Lobdell
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 138) the first eight Thursdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291H: Edward O. Wilson, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life
Instructor: Jennifer Adams
Meets on campus (location TBD) the first eight Wednesdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291J: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers
Instructor: David Alvarez
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room TBD) the first eight Wednesdays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291K: Bernard Suits, The Grasshopper
Instructor: Jessica Mejía
Meets at Asbury Hall 220 the first eight Mondays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291M: Sanitized Religion and Morality (articles chosen by instructor)
Instructor: Ted Bitner
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 138) the first eight Mondays of Spring 2020, 7-8:30 p.m.

Fall 2019 Ethics Reading Courses

UNIV291A: Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, The Smartest Guys in the Room: 10th Anniversary Edition: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
Instructor: Paul McGurr (paulmcgurr@depauw.edu)
Meets on campus (location TBD) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291B: Wendy Wong, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade
Instructor: Craig Hadley (craighadley@depauw.edu)
Meets in Peeler 213 the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291C: Carolyn Bronstein and Whitney Strub, Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: American Sexual Representation in the 1970s
Instructor: Sarah Rowley (sarahrowley@depauw.edu)
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 135) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291D: George Eliot, Middlemarch
Instructor: Meryl Altman (maltman@depauw.edu)
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 138) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291E: Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
Instructor: Marnie McInnes (mmcinnes@depauw.edu)
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 152) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291F: Charles Taylor, A Secular Age
Instructor: David Alvarez (davidalvarez@depauw.edu)
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 152) the first eight Thursdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291G: John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling.
Instructor: Tim Good (tgood@depauw.edu)
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 135) the first eight Thursdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291H: Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey, The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and the Blockchain Are Challenging the Global Economics Order
Instructor: Ashley Puzzo (ashleypuzzo@depauw.edu)
Meets on campus (location TBD) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291J: Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
Instructor: Jessica Mejia (jessicamejia@depauw.edu)
Meets on campus (location TBD) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291K: Gandhi, an Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
Instructor: Tamara Pollack (tpollack@depauw.edu)
Meets at the Prindle Institute (room 138) the first eight Thursdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291M: Jacques Ranciere, The Ignorant
Instructor: Angela Flury (aflury@depauw.edu)
Meets on campus (location TBD) the first eight Thursdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

UNIV291N: Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents”
Instructor: Ted Bitner (tedbitner@depauw.edu)
Meets on campus (location TBD) the first eight Wednesdays of Fall 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.

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