Healthcare Justice This course focuses on intersections between philosophical theories of justice and healthcare. Topics covered include: distributive justice and issues involving scarce resources, such as the allocation of organs to transplant, prioritization for ICU beds in a pandemic, and triage methods in disaster scenarios; issues of social, political, and structural justice, such as access to tertiary care, social determinants of health, and structural competency in medical education; and issues of epistemic justice, such as allegations of medical error, assessments of medical expertise, and judgments of patients’ decisional capacity and competency.
Neuroethics As research into the brain and the mind has advanced, distinctive ethical issues have arisen in neuroscience, neurology, and neural engineering. These issues are part of a growing field of inquiry known as neuroethics, described as “the ethics of neuroscience, and the neuroscience of ethics.” The ethics of neuroscience includes ethical, legal, and social implications of research and new technologies, particular issues with how neuroscientific research is carried out with animal or human subjects, and structural concerns about transparent funding for research or fair distribution of research outcomes. The neuroscience of ethics refers to the perspectives neuroscientific research can give us on moral thought and moral action and is closely allied with moral psychology.
More broadly, neuroethics is one branch of biomedical ethics—the study of ethical issues in biological and medical research and clinical practice. When compared with biomedical ethics as a field, neuroethics has a number of features that distinguish it as an area of concern. In particular, neuroethics deals with questions about how new neuroscientific technologies affect who we are, how we understand ourselves, what we can do, and who we can become. This course will introduce neuroethics through a discussion of topics such as changes to identity through neural stimulation and pharmaceuticals, disorders of agency, disorders of consciousness, cognitive and moral enhancement, addiction and responsibility, traumatic brain injury, lie detection and neuroimaging, memory loss and manipulation, artificial intelligence, brain death, and neurodiversity.
Moral Relativism Is it true that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”? Moral relativism is the idea that ethical justification of decisions and actions depends on the cultural context of the society in which they take place. Some interpret moral relativism as a metaethical theory, according to which there are no universal moral truths, only customs and habits. Others take moral relativism to be a normative theory which proposes that we cannot criticize other cultures because what appears to us to be wrong is only wrong from our own particular perspective. In this class we will study arguments for and against both metaethical and normative moral relativism, considering both canonical and contemporary approaches. (Honors Seminar) Biomedical Ethics Across Cultures This course introduces ethical issues in medicine from a cross-cultural perspective. We begin by reviewing foundational issues in medicine and medical research, including human experimentation, medical professionalism, patients’ rights, and physician paternalism as they arose following WWII and in the context of the Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki. We then consider perspectives from Japan, India, the Netherlands, China, and the U.S. on some of the most significant topics in medical ethics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including abortion, assisted reproductive technology (ART), euthanasia, definitions of death, and organ transplantation. Finally, having spent the majority of the semester focused on ethical issues as they arise across geographic, ethnic, and linguistic lines, we turn to ethical issues that arise across cultural boundaries within societies, including neurotypicality, disability, and deaf culture.
Biomedical Ethics This course introduces students to the normative analysis of historical and contemporary ethical issues in biomedical science. Biomedical ethics has two major foci – clinical ethics and research ethics – and students will be exposed to issues in both areas. Using normative ethical tools, including questions about rights, obligations, best interests, fairness, character, and virtue, students will analyze particular cases, assess philosophical arguments, stage reasoned debates, and engage in group discussion. Some of the particular questions addressed in this class include who has the right to make decisions about medical treatment, how best to structure the physician-patient relationship, how to define the end of human life and respect individuals’ decisions about their own passing, when to acknowledge the beginning of human life and parental responsibilities, how to distribute scarce resources such as organs for transplantation, how to protect human research subjects, and how to exhibit care in utilizing emerging medical technologies.
(Philosophy Senior Seminar) Paternalism and Autonomy Paternalism, broadly defined as interference with another person against her will yet for her benefit, has routinely been objected to on the basis of the individual’s right to autonomy. However, in recent years there has been growing support among philosophers of law and ethicists for paternalistic interventions, either due to evidence that even autonomous individuals will not always act to their benefit, or because the value of individual autonomy has come into question. In this course, we will tackle the complex issues surrounding the opposition of paternalism and autonomy. This includes theoretical issues that trace back to Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, as well as practical questions, such as how to ensure that individuals are making autonomous decisions about their medical care and whether physicians can ever make decisions for patients without consulting them.
(First Year Seminar) The Beautiful and the Good: Art, Ethics, and Culture in Japan This seminar considers the relationship between art, ethics, and culture through philosophy, literature, and visual art in Japan. We will read philosophical texts, examine the philosophical dimensions of literature, and practice taking diverse philosophical stances on works of art. In the process, we will reflect on assumptions about art in society and we will creatively explore the role of art in developing and sustaining moral attitudes and practices. This class includes reading and discussion, as well as experiential components such as museum and gallery visits.
Ethics This course introduces students to ethics through the theories of major thinkers in the Western philosophical tradition. Normative ethics asks us to consider how we ought to act and to assess why those actions might be morally required. Ethicists have addressed these questions in two ways: through inquiry into the nature of ethical actions themselves and through conceptions of ethical persons and ethical societies. In this course we will examine examples of each approach. We will come to understand how different philosophers make their claims by analyzing both their particular ethical positions and the broader metaethical assumptions about ethics that underlie their arguments. We will also gain practice using these arguments to address particular situations and contexts. This will prepare students to ask ethical questions of their actions, their selves, and their societies, both in the classroom and in their everyday lives.