May 24, 2022  
Catalogue 2021-2022 
Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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PHIL 330 - Seminar in Ethics & Theory of Value

Semester Offered: Spring
1 unit(s)
Topic for 2021/22b: Social Reproduction Theory. This seminar explores the philosophical literature on Social Reproduction Theory. This is a strand of Marxist feminism that focuses on the relationship between capitalist exploitation and oppression. In particular, Social Reproduction Theory seeks to understand the role of unwaged work in the creation of surplus value. We examine the theoretical foundations of Social Reproduction Theory, its contemporary formulation, as well as some criticisms and alternatives. Authors include Tithi Bhattacharya, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Susan Ferguson, and Lise Vogel. Assignments in this course are oriented around a single, ongoing research project. Students aree required to conduct independent research culminating into two separate writing assignments submitted near the end of the semester. Along the way, students defend a research prospectus, prepare an annotated bibliography, and lead an in-class discussion. Jamie Kelly.

Topic for 2021/22b: Environmental Ethics. Do we have moral obligations to things other than human beings?  To individual animals?  To species?  To ecosystems? Everyone agrees that we may have instrumental reasons to care about non-human things: we may protect an old-growth forest, for instance, because it is a source of joy and wonder to humans, or because it provides “ecosystems services” like cleaning our air and water. But biocentric moral theories claim, in opposition to traditional moral theories, that things other than humans possess intrinsic (rather than just instrumental) value, so that there is something morally wrong with destroying a forest, or causing a species to go extinct, even if the forest or species provides no benefit at all to humans. Such theories are appealing, but they face difficulties. How can we decide between obligations to human beings and obligations to non-human things, when these come into conflict? This theoretical question is given bite by the fact that many historically important biocentric theorists have seemed remarkably ready to support “ecofascistic” policies that commit real injustices to people – such as expulsion of poor or indigenous peoples from their lands in order to create nature preserves, or heavily incentivized or forced sterilization of populations in the name of reducing environmental strains. Moreover, many biocentric theories seem to be rooted in mystical conceptions of nature that are hard to square with what modern biology, evolutionary theory, and ecology teach us. So, we ask: what are the prospects for a version of biocentrism that is scientifically defensible, and that does not tend toward ecofascism? Jeffrey Seidman.

Prerequisite(s): Two intermediate or advanced Philosophy courses, or permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

Course Format: CLS

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