SOC 252
Moral Life in the Modern World Fall 2017
Division II
Cross-listed SOC 252 / REL 286
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This interdisciplinary seminar attempts to locate and examine modern moral life (i.e., the ethical dimension of modern culture) in its broader historical and cultural context. The aim of the course is less to analyze and debate the theoretical moralities of philosophers and theologians, than it is to interpret and attempt to understand the lived moralities that people actually practice and carry out; that shape conduct and selfhood in the modern world. Part I of the course will provide a guided introduction to a range of contested issues in the study of ethics and morality: moralism, moral relativism, and the nature of modern moral discourse; moral truth, and value freedom; the differences between normative and descriptive ethical inquiry; “thick” and “thin” moral concepts, and the historically variable relationships between lived moralities, theoretical moralities, and moral customs. In Part II we will work through a series of case studies that take up the following issues: moral life in corporate, urban, and suburban contexts; media, moralism, and moral panics; business ethics; race and racism; depersonalization, war and genocide. The course will furthermore examine ethics and morality “in,” “through,” and “of” literature, as students will select, read, and critique a work of fiction.
The Class: Type: lecture
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1089
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly discussion précis, film screenings, two book review essays, class presentations, and a take-home midterm
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Sociology and Anthropology students
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
SOC 252 Division II REL 286 Division II

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