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Ethics for Dissenters

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1313
Section 001
Instructor Bill Caspary
Days W
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC, PREMOD



This course is about dissent in a double sense: criticizing accepted ethical values, and criticizing old ways of philosophical thought about ethics. It is about affirmative ethics, not just criticism. Over the years the course has grown into a survey of classic writings in ethical philosophy from Socrates to Sartre. One half of the class is devoted to the classical Greek thought of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. There is a brief critical look at Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. The modern period covers the ethics of Romanticism, Marxism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, and Feminism—as dissenting alternatives to mainstream Kantian and utilitarian ethics. Authors include Dewey, Emerson, Hegel, Gilligan, James, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Schiller. From these texts perspectives emerge on: (1) criticizing unjust (e.g. sexist) ethical standards, and inventing fair ones; (2) choosing ethical careers and life paths; (3) recognizing responsibilities to the larger community; (4) resolving ethical dilemmas; (5) forming and justifying visions of a better world; (6) dialoguing productively with adversaries by respecting different ethical positions without the cop-out of "anything goes;" and (7) getting beyond dead-end debate on idealism/realism, egotism/altruism, objectivism/relativism.


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Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)