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Instructor: Lucia Schwarz. This course meets MWF 12:20 – 1:10 p.m. in MU 104.

This is an introductory course in practical ethics. We will focus on concrete ethical issues that we face in society today. In particular, we will ask ethical questions surrounding three groups of individuals that are often marginalized, overlooked, or dismissed: people with disabilities, non-human animals, and people whose sexual choices or preferences are socially deviant. Some of the questions we will ask are:

  • Is it bad for people to have a disability? Or is disability a value-neutral difference between people?
  • Is it morally permissible to genetically select against children with disabilities? Is it morally required?
  • Do non-human animals matter just as much as humans?
  • Can we be friends with animals?
  • Should people be able to buy and sell sex?
  • Is BDSM anti-feminist? Or is it liberating?

Our goal will be to move our thinking beyond prevailing dogmas and to critically engage with substantive arguments for and against various controversial positions in practical ethics. Many of the questions we pose in this class will turn out to be more difficult than they initially appear. Our goal will not be to come to a consensus on these questions; each student is encouraged to responsibly and thoughtfully form their own views.


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