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seminars > fall 2013 schedule > seminar: Ethics and Gender


Honors Seminars Fall 2013

Ethics and Gender

HON 346 Sec:001  
3 hours  
GER Cat:
Humanities--Philosophy; Interdisciplinary Perspectives; US Diversity  
Withers Hall 00344  
Dr. Christine M. Pierce
Restrictions: N/A  

The core readings for "Ethics and Gender" will be Martha's Nussbaum's Sex and Social Justice and Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. There will also be some readings in a course pack including an essay by Cheshire Calhoun from her book, Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet. All of the major western, secular, philosophical ethical theories and perspectives will be considered. The course will begin with some background in older ethical theories and traditions in order to better understand the contemporary literature Martha Nussbaum defends a view (the capabilities approach) that all women and men are entitled to live in a society that secures the rudiments of a decent life. She focuses on women in developing countries who are married without choice as children, prevented from attending literacy classes, or working outside the home. She is critical of these and other practices that deny women and gays the basic social minimum that is required for the development of human capabilities. Her work opposes the view that any cultural and/or religious practice should be respected in the name of cultural diversity; those practices that stunt basic human functioning are unethical and should be criticized as such. Cheshire Calhoun's essay is devoted to an understanding of sexual orientation including how the subordination of gays and lesbians is differently structured from women's oppression. This structural difference explains why the right to marry is important to lesbians and gays despite much feminist criticism of the institution of (heterosexual) marriage. In his new book (2010) Sam Harris maintains that neuroscience combined with philosophy can best help us understand what morality is. This thesis means that some people are simply mistaken about what morality is and science can tell us who these folks are and why they are wrong. In short, the various books and articles we will read consist mostly of contemporary work in ethics and gender that speaks both to the status of women and issues surrounding sexual orientation.