Law, Ethics, and Democracy

Course Description

This course will take a deep look at some of the issues facing modern democracies from the perspectives of the law, ethics, and political philosophy. Through the lens of classic and contemporary texts in moral and political philosophy, judicial opinion, and current events, we will examine pressing questions like: How should a nation decide who gets to immigrate? What is the proper role of money in politics? Are there any justifiable limits to free speech on college campuses? What do we mean by "equality" or "justice," and why does it matter? What should we do when what is right is not the same as what is legal in a democracy? You will learn the fundamentals of ethical reasoning while debating the solutions to the most pressing problems facing modern societies.

Students will gain a familiarity with the classic texts of moral and political philosophy from Jeremy Bentham, JS Mill, Benjamin Constant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Aristotle. You will read the writings of contemporary moral and political philosophers such as Elizabeth Anderson, Tommie Shelby, and Michael Sandel, as well as prominent economists and cultural critics. Finally, the class will read opinions from the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as state and federal courts. The goal for you is to bring all these resources to bear on contemporary challenges to democracy, like: the role of money politics, employment discrimination, free speech debates, affirmative action, and immigration.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To gain familiarity with influential schools of political and ethical philosophy and economics
  • To develop, practice, and polish skills of moral reasoning and philosophical argument
  • To acquire writing and research skills that will serve you well in college
Online Mode: The instructor will post recorded lectures, and you will have the opportunity to engage in optional "live" discussions with the instructor and your classmates. The instructor will also hold "office hours" for 1-1 meetings and group conversations.


There are no prerequisites for this course. However, you should be prepared to delve into challenging readings with a spirit of willingness, collaboration, and curiosity.


Two Sections Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: June 27, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 6 Weeks
Meeting Times: Online - Mostly Asynchronous
Status: Closed
Format: Online
Instructor(s): David Pressly
Course Number: 10159

Dates: July 18, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 3 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 3:30P-6:20P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): David Pressly
Course Number: 10322