“I told a friend that I exit class on clouds every day. The content of the class is endlessly interesting.” - Jessica F. | Valley Stream, New York
This course introduces students to normative ethical theory and applies these theories to several concrete moral issues
Following an orientation in philosophical themes and methods, the course divides into two basic units – roughly, ‘theory’ and ‘practice.’ We first look at the conceptual or theoretical foundations of ethics, surveying four major approaches to ethics in Western philosophy: consequentialism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, and the ethics of care.
With these tools in hand, we assess three contemporary moral problems: abortion, freedom of expression and ‘cancel culture," and inequality. We shall be concerned with questions such as: Is abortion morally permissible and, if so, under what conditions? What is freedom of expression, why do we value it, and to what extent should it be limited? What is ‘cancel culture,’ and to what extent is it, or could it be, morally good or bad? What are the various dimensions of the concept of moral equality? Is it immoral that some people are unequal with respect to resources such as wealth, income, education, and healthcare? In theorizing about justice, is a focus on individual distributive shares of such goods a distraction from practical realities of inequality in race, gender, etc?
Readings are drawn from classical sources such as Aristotle, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill and contemporary philosophers including Peter Singer, Virginia Held, Judith Jarvis Thomson, John Rawls, Elizabeth Anderson, and Tommie Shelby.
Through lecture, independent reading, and class discussion and debate, participants gain a familiarity with some of the fundamental issues in ethics, an understanding of the distinctiveness of philosophical enquiry, and an improved ability to think critically and to express themselves clearly and cogently.
Alex Rigas has an M.Phil. in philosophy from Columbia University. His primary research interests are in 19th- and 20th-century European philosophy, especially Martin Heidegger’s thought. His teaching interests include political, social, and legal philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics and epistemology. He has taught at Columbia University and New York University. Alex believes that philosophy matters to and is for everyone. He works as a tutor and specializes in standardized test preparation and in the humanities and social sciences (secondary and tertiary).
Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.