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Brady Seminars, 2013-2014

The Good Life
Fall Quarter, Professor Richard Kraut, Philosophy

This is the first in a sequence of three courses required of sophomores in the Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life.  In this course, we will study some of the foundational issues of moral philosophy, as well as one of the most pressing issues of our time (climate change).  We begin with a general survey of ethics (Being Good by Simon Blackburn).  We then tackle the problem that gives this course its title: the Good Life  (The Best Things in Life by Thomas Hurka).  We will next examine the idea that human beings have a special feature that belongs to no other species: dignity (Dignity: Its History and Meaning by Michael Rosen).  We then ask how the well-being of individuals can be added up, and how the happiness of future generations should figure in our thinking (Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World by John Broome). Finally, we confront the question whether such ethical questions as these have objective answers, and if so, why there is so much disagreement about them (What Ever Happened to Good and Evil? by Russ Shafer-Landau).


The Moral Life
Winter Quarter, Professor Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Philosophy

We will consider how we are to act towards others.  Drawing on both classic and contemporary readings in philosophy, as well as our own experiences, we will ask what guidance moral considerations provide in different spheres and situations.  Do we have, or can we justify, special obligations to our friends and family?  Do our professional and other roles shape what we have reason to do?  How do we understand our obligations towards strangers?  Is there some unified way to understand the reasons that should guide us in all of these spheres, or do they operate independently?

The Good Society

Spring Quarter, Professor Steven Kelts, Political Science

People have ethical obligations, but do societies?  What sort of actor is a society?  Can it reason?  Can it will?  Does it have obligations to the persons who compose it?  Does it have obligations to other societies?  In this class, we will explore the philosophical, political and practical aspects of creating a good society, and running it.  We will ask how to build a good political society, examining for instance what institutions are morally required and whether different societies should have different institutions.  We will also ask how political institutions can help create a good life for a people, in particular how they can shape economic fortunes and whether they should engage citizens’ moral lives as well.  And we will ask how good societies ought to relate to one another, fulfilling their ethical obligations in peace and in war.  As we ask each set of questions we will focus on what a good citizen must do to (re)form institutions, engage in civic life, and make difficult decisions about international relations.