Ethics in a Time of Polarization

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Osher Course
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
John Hooker, Study leader

8:45 – 10:15 am
6 Mondays, 13 Sep – 18 Oct 2021

Course description     Study leader bio

Course objectives

Tentative Schedule

Click on the links to view or download slides (as pdf files) used in class.




Week 1

Intellectual origins of our post-truth age

Myths & Misconceptions

Introduction to the course.
The intellectual origins of our “post-truth age.”  The many myths and misconceptions about ethics and human irrationality, especially the idea that ethics cannot have a rational basis in theory or practice. 

Week 2

Ethical Principles

An intellectual framework for ethical reasoning, based on generalization, utilitarian, and autonomy principles.  Examples from everyday life.  How these principles are derived from the assumption that we can freely choose at least some of our actions. 

Week 3

Ethical dilemmas,
Part 1

Ethical analysis of dilemmas ordinary people face, including issues related to the Covid pandemic.

Week 4

Ethical dilemmas,
Part 2

More vaccine dilemmas, consumer ethics, cashier’s error, ethics and technology/AI.

Week 5

A survey of -isms

A brief excursion into political philosophy.  A survey of “isms,” including capitalism, socialism, communism, social democracy, worker capitalism, conservatism, neoconservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, neoliberalism, social liberalism, Marxism, anarchism, fascism, populism, progressivism.

Week 6

Ethics and culture

Ethics across cultures, beginning with cultural origins of Western ethics (including virtue ethics).   How cross-cultural ethics can address the postmodern critique.