Issues in Applied Ethics
This course provides a forum for discussion of a selection of topics in applied ethics through mainly contemporary philosophical literature. In examining these topics, we will discuss principles and problems of broader philosophical significance in applied ethics, as these turn out to underlie many disagreements. We will also use our experience of approaching specific problems in applied ethics through the term to address the meta-question of the nature of methodology in applied ethics. Topics discussed will include the ethics of human enhancement, climate change, free speech, and markets in human organs. Principles and problems discussed will include the doctrine of double effect, the harm principle, individual vs. collective responsibility, and aspects of liberal morality. No background in applied ethics is assumed, but a basic familiarity with normative moral theories such as consequentialism and Kantian deontology is a prerequisite.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
• demonstrate a clear understanding of debates on some central issues in applied ethics and be able to take part in these debates by critiquing significant arguments
• explain how various positions taken on topics in applied ethics relate to deeper principles and problems in ethics
• distinguish between differing conceptions of the methodology of applied ethics, and reflect on their own experience during the course in order to contribute to this discussion
• analyze and charitably reconstruct philosophical arguments from readings, and summarise them clearly and succinctly
• perform their own evaluation and critique of the validity and soundness of arguments with care and clarity, both orally and in writing
30% presentation and seminar participation; 20% mid-term paper; 50% final paper.