What is human nature? In what ways are we limited or liberated by being human? This course will examine a number of philosophical theories about morality and rationality. In particular, we will focus on the question of what sorts of beings we would have to be in order for those theories to be true. What kind of psychologies, individual and social, are required for us to act morally or rationally? To achieve justice or knowledge? In exploring answers to these questions, we will draw on works by philosophers, economists, and social psychologists.
Collective Responsibility and Social Justice
Many of the most pressing moral issues in the contemporary world–whether they are economic, political, social, or environmental–cannot be solved by the actions of a single individual. Yet in many cases, these problems persist precisely because of the accumulation of actions by many individuals. How can we be responsible for solving such problems? What would it take to solve these problems? What are my obligations to those in need, or those less well-off? How can I be an “ethical consumer,” an “ethical eater,” or a good citizen? When is it morally wrong for me to do things that contribute to environmental degradation, or to global and social inequality? In this course, we will explore issues such as poverty, exploitation, stereotyping and prejudice, and climate change with an eye to understanding what is required by the demands of social, distributive, and global justice.