Contemporary Moral Issues: Bioethics and the Ethics of Technology

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Course registration will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

Course Description

This class surveys a range of ethical issues ranging from classic debates on abortion and euthanasia to those arising from emerging technologies, such as Big Data. In doing so, the course also aims to sharpen students' skills at critical thinking, analysis, and argumentation. In particular, students will learn how to dissect and analyze arguments with visual maps; they will also have opportunities, not only to produce and write up their own arguments, but also to present and debate their ideas as a group.

Some of the questions we'll tackle are classic: What, if anything, do we owe the global poor? Is abortion morally permissible? Is assisted suicide -- and how might thinking about more theoretical philosophical issues such as meaning in life and well-being inform our thinking about these more "applied" issues?

But we will also look at questions that have come to the forefront only recently. To begin with medical ethics, when a patient who made an advanced directive gets Alzheimer's disease and forgets about their advanced directive, should we respect their current wishes, or that expressed in their advanced directive? And moving on to the ethics of technology, does Big Data increase inequality, and if so, how? In what way might the algorithms driving decisions behind the scenes be biased?

By the end of the course, students will have been exposed to theorizing about a wide range of ethical issues. They will also have completed a range of assessment (argument maps, writing exercises, class debate, group presentations) that are designed to help students get clear on what they think about these debates, to foster clarity and rigor in students' argumentation, as well to improve their ability to express their ideas. In doing so, they will have had the chance to develop skills that they will employ, not just in college, but throughout the rest of their lives.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites are required, though students should be willing to have their beliefs challenged.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPL0938
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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