More than one billion people worldwide live in “extreme poverty” and lack the necessities for a decent human life. As relatively affluent citizens, are we responsible for this problem and its alleviation? Should we care about these “distant others”? How can we help them? Should we help them? This course will explore these questions and our responsibilities to one another, beginning with an introduction to ethical thinking. We’ll read and participate in philosophical dialogue to better understand various conceptual frameworks designed to help guide human action and what we ought to do, particularly in our engagement with one another. We’ll then apply these ideas to the issue of global poverty and the problem of “distant others”—that is, the problem of caring for those who are (typically) very far removed from our daily lives and concerns. We’ll look at arguments that advocate helping the worst-off (and the variety of ways this is formulated) and those that claim that we have no such obligation. Through this study, we’ll come to reflect on our own ethical responsibilities and daily and long-term choices. We’ll also consider obstacles, both psychological and social, to doing the right thing.
Field WorkCountry: South Africa
Date: October 7, 2018
In our Field Class, we will collaborate with a local organization to learn about causes and conditions of poverty in South Africa and participate in an ongoing service project that serves the community’s needs.
- Learn about the multi-faceted conditions that produce and sustain poverty for vulnerable populations in a specific community;
- Understand best methods for addressing conditions that produce poverty in this community;
- Support and work alongside local community members and organizations by contributing to their ongoing development projects;
- Apply our study of ethical theory and concepts to a complex problem and to challenge and revise notions of global poverty through sustained engagement, analysis, and reflection.