Ethics (PHIL*6230) | College of Arts

Ethics (PHIL*6230)

Code and section: PHIL*6230*01

Term: Fall 2020

Instructor: Samantha Brennan


This seminar takes up a wide range of questions in ethics, social philosophy, and political philosophyconnected to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our seminar won’t be a narrow class in medical ethics, though we will talk about triage, who gets treatment, and why. But we won’t only talk about the clinical side of treating COVID-19. Instead, we’ll take up a range of topics in ethics and political philosophy raised by the global pandemic.

Topics include the limits of justifiable state power and stay at home orders, justice and the funding of health care, basic minimum income, harm reduction, vaccination and trust in public health, the nature of epidemiological expertise, old age and care homes, intergenerational justice, racism, disability and vulnerability, collective responsibility, the just division of work in the home, city design and access to green space, immunity passports, privacy and tracking apps, climate change, the environment, and the treatment of non-human animals.

This grad seminar presumes some background in ethics and political philosophy. I’m also going to be inviting guests to our class to join us in conversation. Sometimes this will be the authors of the pieces we’re reading. Other guests will be philosophers interested in the topic that week. That’s the content of the class but there are also things worth knowing about the format of this seminar
and how you’ll be evaluated. In addition to exploring topics related to the pandemic and examining them through the lens of various philosophical theories about ethics, we will also be learning some skills together as we conduct our seminar online. We’re going to start with powerpoint/video introductions uploaded to Teams. During the term we’ll all be recording video presentations of the week’s readings. On your week you’ll be responsible for posting a video presentation. Other weeks, you’ll be responsible for watching the video presentation in advance. Each week you’ll also post a discussion question for conversation and we’ll start our class with those questions.

Recommended summer reading: Songs for the End of the World by Saleema Nawaz | Penguin, 2020 (to be published in August, kindle version available now)

Introduction, 5%
Weekly discussion questions, 10 x 2%=20%
Seminar presentation, 25%
Final paper, 50%
-The Ethics of Pandemics, Broadview, Edited by: Meredith Celene Schwartz, Publication Date: August 15, 2020
-Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal | JHU Press, Special Issue on Ethics, Pandemics, and COVID-19
Other readings all available online.

Course Outline