Global Ethics

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Harmon
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 14:15
End: 15:30
Field Work: Day 1 - Hamburg - Thursday, 5 September | Germany Download Syllabus

This upper division class will explore some major elements in moral philosophy, with a focus upon moral and cultural diversity.  The class will consider and evaluate the relativist and subjectivist conclusions often drawn from the facts of moral diversity, and will explore different religious systems of morality (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) as well as the differences between religious and secular approaches to ethics. After these theoretical matters have been addressed we will turn our attention to issues of practical moral concern. Such issues will include perennial matters of life and death (abortion, euthanasia, the killing of animals) and global issues arising from our increasingly interconnected global situation (world poverty, environmental ethics, war, torture and terrorism).

Field Work

Country: Germany
Day: 1 - Hamburg - Thursday, 5 September

For the first half of the field lab, we are going to visit an NGO called Amnesty for Women, founded in Hamburg in 1986 as a counseling center to counsel and support migrant women, many of whom are subject to human trafficking, prostitution, domestic violence, isolation, and repression.   In particular, we are going to learn about the counseling projects aimed at reaching female sex workers, many of whom are from Thailand, including such topics as health and safety issues, legal concerns, and how to avoid violence and impoverishment. In the second half of the field lab, we are going to visit Hamburg’s red light district, the Reeperban---in the day light---to deconstruct what is sometimes referred to as the sundige meile, or the sinful mile.  Besides restaurants, night clubs, etc, the Reeperban is packed with sex shops, a sex museum, brothels, strip clubs and a wide array of sex workers. The Reeperban’s red light district features the Herbertstrasse, with prostitutes sitting in windows, advertising for customers.  (It is closed off by a wall for minor and “female visitors,” although it is not officially prohibited for women to enter the street---merely strongly discouraged by the police.) Chances are:  you are going to visit the Reeperban at night, and the purpose of this field lab is to take a tour of the street during the day, to learn about its history, the laws that apply, how the police keep the peace, the gang life that controls the brothels, and how the sex workers live, work, and try to survive.

Issues that you might discuss in your reflective journals:  What would a Kantian analysis of prostitution look like?  Do you believe that sex workers are exercising their “free will” as moral agents when engaging in this work?  What would a utilitarian analysis of the sex work that you have learned about look like---is it “moral?”   What do you think John Stuart Mill would have to say on the topic of sex work?  Should sex work be “legalized,” and what would the cost-benefit analysis look like in favor of legalization?  How is prostitution dealt with within the scheme of international human rights?  How have your views about prostitution changed as a result of what you have learned about the women who the sex workers in the Reeperban?