The End of the World: bioethics, problem-solving and attitude shaping for an age of uncertainty
In order to make the “right” decision, scientists, engineers, politicians and everyday people need to first acknowledge that they indeed have a choice; secondly, actors need to recognize the need for some kind of decision-making process. But how do we go about recognizing ethical dilemmas and responding to them?
The first part of this course will focus on recognizing ethical problems – when something “feels wrong”, or at least, does not “feel right” – and determining attitudes or processes for responding to these “feelings” or “intuitions”. Students will engage in role play, hypothetical decision-making, storytelling and discussion to navigate the murky and sometimes rough waters of human choice and interaction. Philosophical and literary works will also provide us with the tools to become rational, empathetic and pragmatic actors.
During the second half of our course, we will focus on the ethos, or attitude, we might develop in the wake of previous generations’ actions, decisions or lack of ethical forethought.
As rivers and streams become increasingly polluted, as climate change appears irreversible, as people and animals undergo dramatic, sometimes disastrous transformations, what attitudes can we, and should we, adopt? Here again, we will turn to philosophy, to literature and to our own imaginations to reflect, not only upon right and wrong, but on anxiety, meaning and virtue in this period of technological and biological upheaval.
Projects will include the study and application of one kind of ethical theory or attitude to one specific environmental, technological or biological conundrum.