2019-2020 University Catalog 
    Nov 28, 2021  
2019-2020 University Catalog archived

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PHIL 296 - Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory

Credits: 3 credits in fall-winter-spring, 4 in spring

A consideration of selected issues in philosophy. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Spring 2020, PHIL 296-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Ethics and Emerging Technologies (3). By some accounts, technology is the defining aspect of modern society that shapes how we experience the world. At the same time, technology is accelerating at a pace that challenges our ability to take stock of the ethical issues at hand. In this seminar, we take a critical look at a number of cutting-edge technologies that are still largely on the horizon and attempt to decipher the ethical issues they present and how such problems might be mitigated. Some emerging technologies we critically analyze include artificial intelligence, human enhancement, virtual reality, surveillance technologies, synthetic biology, self-driving cars, and killer robots. (HU) Weissman.

Fall 2019, PHIL 296A-01: Seminar in Ethics and Value Theory: Virtue Ethics and Liberal Arts Education (3). The mission of Washington and Lee is to provide a liberal arts education that helps students develop their capacities to think freely, critically, and humanely and to act with honor, integrity, and civility. These capacities are known as virtues, positive traits of intellect and character that are believed to be conducive to living well. Virtue ethics is one of the oldest and most important approaches to moral theory. Plato famously asked whether virtue can be taught. Aristotle’s Ethics attempts to answer Plato by giving an account of how the traits that are necessary to human flourishing can be acquired. In this seminar, students read classic and contemporary texts in virtue ethics, with the aim of evaluating W&L’s mission and the university’s efforts to fulfill it. What does it mean to think freely, critically, and humanely? What are the distinguishing characteristics of honor, integrity, and civility? Are these traits beneficial in every circumstance? Are there other virtues that the university should strive to cultivate in its students? How effectively do the culture, curriculum, and extra-curricular programs at Washington and Lee teach the virtues to which our mission commits us? Students reflect upon their own educational goals, choices, and experiences in light of the philosophical works that they read. (HU) Dudley.


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