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 2023

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

Text: Nancy D. Campbell, JP Olsen, and Luke Walden, The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and
Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts

Instructor: JP Olsen
Meets the first 8 Mondays of the semester.

Text: Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty
Instructor: Sarah Rowley
Meets the first 8 Wednesdays of the semester.

Text: William Edward Soothill (Translator), The Analects
Instructor: Ying-Ju Chen
Meets the first 8 Mondays of the semester.

Text: Will Steacy, Photographs Not Taken: A Collection of Photographers’ Essays
Instructor: Cynthia O’Dell
Meets the first 8 Tuesdays of the semester.

Text: Shusaku Endo, Silence
Instructor: Jonathan Martin
Meets the first 8 Thursdays of the semester.

Text: Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia
Instructor: Natalia Vargas Márquez
Meets the first 8 Thursdays of the semester.

Text: Emma Saunders-Hastings, Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality
Instructor: Tucker Sechrest
Meets the first 8 Wednesdays of the semester.

Text: Michael J. Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
Instructor: David Alvarez
Meets the first 8 Tuesdays of the semester.

Text: Hal Herzog, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals
Instructor: Jessica Mejía
Meets the first 8 Wednesdays of the semester.

Fall 2022

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

UNIV291A: Carolyn Bronstein and Whitney Strub, eds., Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: American Sexual Representation in the 1970s
Instructor: Sarah Rowley

A “porno chic” culture in the 1970s brought pornography into the mainstream to an unprecedented level in the United States. While many Americans saw the “pornification” of pop culture as a liberating aspect of the sexual revolution, others feared that such public displays of sex debased American culture and threatened the moral underpinning of society. In an era in which the adult film Deep Throat (1972) was a mainstream hit, and the magazine Penthouse pushed the limits far beyond what Playboy would have dared display, had consumerism poisoned the well of sexual liberation, or did the commercial market help break through repressive traditions of censorship? Centered on essays by historians as well as primary documents, this class will consider many varied perspectives on the so-called “sex wars” of the 1970s to explore the moral quandaries borne of this explosion of sexualized public culture. Topics include porn’s relationship to the gay rights movement, religion, feminism, and conservative politics.

UNIV291B: 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 socio-historical, 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?

UNIV291C: Paulo Freire, Teachers As Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare Teach
Instructor: Tim Good

Paulo Freire called his teaching approach “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” and developed his methods in opposition to what he called the “banking” idea of teaching, “In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider knowing nothing…” Leaders of every level and anyone who might be involved in mentoring, tutoring, or otherwise engaging in any kind of teaching, should understand Freire’s demanding and inclusive approach to education and leadership. “Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them.” Teachers as Cultural Workers brings together Freire’s lifetime of international education experience, and challenges both educators and students to bring our full selves to the process of lifelong learning.

UNIV291D: Beth Shapiro, Life as we made it
Instructor: Nipun Chopra

Humans have been intentionally and unintentionally modifying animal populations and behaviors for tens of thousands of years. The success and proliferation of the human species has required consumption, usage, modification and research on a variety of species. Via an exegesis of Beth Shapiro’s book, our course aims to (1) understand the intricate history of humans and animals, (2) identify the unintended consequences of artificial selection, (3) discuss the ethical issues surrounding our use of animals (broadly defined) for the betterment of the human species, and (4) construct ethical parameters, as a proxy for praxis, that should be used for future bioengineering work with emerging technologies such as CRISPR.

UNIV291E: Peter Singer and Jim Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat
Instructor: Caroline Good

How much do we really know about the food we eat? Many of us are unaware of the profound impact our food choices have on our health, the health of our planet, the workers who produce our food, and the hidden secrets of the food industry. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason confronts a variety of ethical issues on how our day-to-day food choices transcend what is on our plate. They address the complex dynamics of sustainability, the controversy over GMO’s, the ethics of obesity, and what “fair trade” really means. They interrogate the food industry’s often corrupt world of production and how it affects our daily lives. They ask what the food industry is not telling us about the food we eat and the impacts their practices have on the environment and their employees. Do the corporations that grow and raise our food treating their workers fairly? How humanely are factory farms, ranches, and small farmers raising cattle, chicken, and pigs for meat? Are the foods we eat sustainable? Are they produced ethically? Does “locally” grown automatically mean “ethically” produced? Why does the food industry have so much influence on being allowed to limit access to their facilities, but at the same time, are receiving millions of dollars in government subsidies? As a class, we will closely examine these questions and others not only through discussion, but also through exploring a variety of mediums, devising creative pieces that will involve multiple perspectives surrounding the issues, and making deeper connections between the ideas in the book and possible solutions to the many ethical problems addressed. We will also be viewing some of the award-winning documentaries and films that explore plant-based food choices and sampling some plant-based dishes!

UNIV291F: Mary Gauthier, Saved By a Song; The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting
Instructor: Ronald Dye

In Saved by a Song; the Art and Healing Power of Songwriting, Mary Gauthier explores how crafting songs can be more than merely an act of creative expression: songs and other works of art have a spiritual dimension that can work to heal both the songwriter and audience. Students will look at songs not only from the outside, but also from within as they try their own hand at creating songs.

UNIV291G: Jamil Zaki, The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World
Instructor: Tamara Stasik

What does it mean to be kind? To have compassion? To empathize with someone? Why should we care? In The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World, Jamil Zaki acknowledges that humanity seems to be growing more cynical and isolated. “The news is not good,” he confesses. However, this Stanford professor and director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, using scientific research and story, argues that we choose empathy–it is not a reflex or innate trait– and that we can improve it over time. In this class, we will discuss Zaki’s argument, his evidence from doctors, social workers, police trainers, literature programs, and former white supremacists, and the way he tells their stories, to examine how we define empathy. We will conduct “kindness challenges” and “empathy experiments” to determine how we might develop empathy, and what this means to help ourselves and others.

UNIV291H: Max Liboiron, Pollution is Colonialism
Instructor: Sahar D. Sattarzadeh

Have do you know whether your scientific knowledge is colonial? What does pollution have to do with colonialism, Indigeneity, race, and gender? Max Liboiron (Michif-settler, they/she) explores these questions in Pollution is Colonialism. Focusing on plastic pollution in particular, this book models an anticolonial scientific practice aligned with Indigenous, particularly Métis, feminism, concepts of land, ethics, and relations. In this reading course, we will be interrogating our individual, community, and institutional complicities in environmental injustice, colonialism, racism, and heterocispatriarchy, as well as how we can hold ourselves accountable in promoting a just world for all of the symbiocene.

UNIV291J: Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?
Instructors: David Alvarez

Is a meritocratic society just? This book criticizes our meritocratic society for making life—and college—into a stress-strewn meritocratic gauntlet. We might want to affirm the ideal of meritocracy. After all, shouldn’t our success depend upon our effort? According to the ideals of meritocracy, those who work hard for their success deserve it, and those who do not work hard also deserve their lot. But is that the right way to think about “winners” and “losers” in today’s global economy? Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? argues that a meritocratic society is not a just society. He asks us to consider the ways that meritocratic ideals can cut us off from our fellow citizens, the role of chance in our lives, and how changing attitudes about the dignity of labor have narrowed the way we think about success—and merit. What does a life lived according to the ideals of meritocracy leave out?

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