Applied Ethics: Respect, Philosophical Practice, & Interdependent Responsibility

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - August 11, 20216/28 - 8/116 WeeksOnlineCancelledOnlineEmily Hodges

Course Description

The overarching theme of this course is to introduce students to the philosophical sub-field of applied ethics. Students will have the opportunity to learn some central ethical ideas and to consider how such ideas apply to students’ own lived experiences. The course is uniquely interesting in providing students the opportunity to consider how one can approach philosophy as a living practice. It provides a unique opportunity to bring theory and lived experience together to develop one’s own philosophical practice. As this is a short introductory course, we will focus on virtue ethics, living within oppressive social structures, and living within environments (i.e. environmental ethics). The main objectives of the course are to 1) engage with philosophical texts to learn philosophical skills such as textual interpretation, contemplation, dialogue, and conceptual analysis, 2) practice these skills in order to come to a better understanding of oneself as an ethical being embedded within certain communities, structures, and environments, and 3) apply one’s insights in order to cultivate one’s own philosophical practice as a daily life practice that allows one to take further responsibility for oneself as an ethical being in an interdependent world.

This course is interested in approaching philosophy as a serious yet daily practice, especially in terms of seeing oneself as an engaged ethical being that is the author of one’s own self and a co-creator of one’s world. We will focus on topics of duty and respect, cultivation of virtue, philosophical practice (including questions about who can do philosophy, and the relationship between theory and practice), self-understanding (including double-consciousness of minority/othered experience), and responsibilities (specifically within one’s communities and environments). We will analyze concepts such as virtue, dignity, self-understanding, otherness, belonging, responsibilities, duties, care, reciprocity, relationship, and respect. We will focus on Philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant, Devonya Havis, WEB Du Bois, and Kyle Whyte, and Indigenous Ethicist and Scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer. Each week will center around a reading selection from one of the above authors. Written assignments will unfold as follows: Weeks 1-4 will require a reading reflection, week 5 will require a paper outline/proposal, and week 6 will require a short philosophical paper. Weeks 1-6 will also require that at least one discussion post be posted to the class discussion board, as well as one response to another student’s post. Students will also attend some combination of the following, depending on their time zone and availability: a weekly seminar-style class dialogue, a weekly session that focused on small-group (or pair work, depending on time zones) discussion, and a weekly one-on-one session with the instructor. These assignments are meant to give students practice with active philosophical skills of listening and understanding another’s question and ideas, articulating one’s own questions and ideas, mutually working together to interpret text, reflecting on one’s own experiences and situations, and engaging in cultivation and application of philosophical skills one’s own life. This course provides a foundation to further study in three ways. First, it introduces students to two of the most foundational philosophers in western academic philosophy: Aristotle and Kant. Second, it connects these historical European philosophers to more recent philosophical scholarship and minority philosophy (two Black philosophers and two Indigenous philosophers). It thus prepares students for engaging with the traditionally taught history of “Western Philosophy” in a way that widens the conversation by bringing in powerful yet traditionally less-centered perspectives on such topics as virtue, self-understanding, philosophical method, responsibility, and respect. Third, it engages these philosophers in a way that allows students to practice academic philosophical theorizing and textual interpretation.

As a result of completing this course, students will have begun to learn how to interpret philosophical texts, engage in philosophical dialogue, contemplate philosophical ideas, reflect on phenomenology and lived experiences in relation to these ideas, and write philosophically. This class will also prepare students to utilize philosophy as practice in their own lives. It will teach students how to bring philosophical ethics into their everyday lives, especially in terms of self-understanding, critical interaction with others, and understanding one’s relationship with one’s environment in a more tangible, daily way.

Prerequisites: This course is designed for the level of a First-Year Undergraduate. There are no specific prerequisites. Students should bring a willingness to engage in difficult readings, serious and thoughtful contemplation and writing practice, curious dialogue, and a willingness to reflect on ways to apply learning to one’s own life context. Emphasis is on practicing these skills, so there is no prior level required.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPL0952

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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