Ethics in the Life Sciences (PHIL*3450) | College of Arts

Ethics in the Life Sciences (PHIL*3450)

Term: Winter 2014


This course critiques the current concepts of health, medicine and disease - mental and physical -- and their respective institutional forms in clinical medicine (physical and psychiatric) via the discourse analysis of 20th century French critical theorist, Michel Foucault (1926-1984). We will focus on relevant concepts Foucault developed - discourse, visibility & sayability; figures & personae; archeology & genealogy, panopticism, power/knowledge, biopower, subjectivation, discipline, governmentality, & force. This is an excellent course for anyone wanting exposure to his ideas and methods. We will read 2 Foucauldian texts that deal directly with the emergence of Western medicine: its objects to be concerned with, and its subjects to be concerned with such things. Foucault claimed not to have written his books for a philosophical audience. Rather, he desired his books "to be a kind of tool-box others can rummage through to find a tool they can use however they wish in their own area...I write for users, not readers" Since we are all users of the concepts and institutions of health, mental and physical, these texts and their analysis can be tools which help us in those uses. Moreover, as a critical theorist, Foucault would insist that it is precisely in gaining a sense of our own positionality in the production of discursive fields like medical practice that ethical possibilities are opened up. In short: critical analysis of "the life sciences" is a form of ethics. For the last third of the course, we will use these tools to critically investigate controversial and topical issues in health and medicine. Students will read a series of articles provided on courselink.

See attachment for Textbooks and Course Requirements.


PDF icon PHIL3450 W14 Syllabus_0.pdf161.78 KB