Philosophy of Poverty

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Harmon
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1550
End: 1705
Field Work: Day 1- Thursday, 22 October | Morocco Download Syllabus

This course in the Philosophy of Poverty will explore some of the deeper issues raised by the tragedy of global poverty.  In the past, the subject of poverty has been relegated to those who make social, economic and public policy.  However, in the past few decades, philosophers have turned their attention to a myriad of issues raised by global poverty.   Some of the issues that the course will cover include:   How do we define and conceive of poverty?   How is it possible for those who are well off to gain knowledge about what poverty means to the poor?   What measures of poverty make it easier for those who are well off to understand the full impact of poverty on human capabilities and well being?  What were the historical, social, and economic causes of poverty, and how do those impact our ethical obligations to those who live in poverty?  What are the moral obligations of those are well off to people who live in poverty—either in our own country, or in countries throughout the world?  How does poverty impact individual agency and imperil free choice and autonomy?   Does global poverty harm those who are not themselves morally defensible theory of development?    Is freedom from poverty a basic human right?  Are there steps that nations, institutions, or citizens of affluent, powerful states might take to eradicate global poverty?  How do those who live in poverty experience their educational resources and health care?  What can we learn about poverty in our own country from a study of poverty throughout the world?

As we circumvent the Atlantic, and move across the sea from Europe, to Africa, to the New World, we are going to have a unique opportunity to observe not only the impact of global poverty, but also the historical, social and economic causes.

Field Work

Country: Morocco
Day: 1- Thursday, 22 October

On this field lab, we will first be taking a tour by bus of Casablanca so that students can get the feel of Morocco’s largest city and North Africa’s largest port---its pockets of affluence, French architecture, business, commercial and residential districts, and prosperous downtown. After that tour, students will travel to northwestern Casablanca to an impoverished area called Sidi Moumen. Sidi Moumen was made famous in the first decade of this century by being the home of the suicide bombers who killed 48 people in terrorist attacks in Casablanca and Marrakech. Students will have an opportunity to see for themselves the linkage between living in extreme poverty and terrorism, and also be able to witness the remarkable efforts of the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center. Founded in 2007 by Boubkey Mazoz, the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center is dedicated to helping the city’s marginalized, and mostly unemployed, youth improve their opportunities in life through educational, sports, and artistic programs. Sidi Moumen Cultural Center has a unique model of community organizing, one which uses the local talent of the neighborhood to run the programs, rather than importing privileged volunteers from outside the area. Students will be given a tour of the neighborhood, the local health clinic, and the Center; after lunch, students will break into groups and will participate in a couple of different service projects. At the end of the day, we will be given some time to interact with some of the students at the Cultural Center. So much of our course on poverty, its meanings, causes, and definitions, will be abstract, but this Field Lab is designed to give student a hand’s on experience of what it might be like to live in an urban impoverished area, and to experience the impact of effective community organizing.          Academic Objectives: 1)      For students to learn about the relationship between extreme poverty and the recruitment of young people into terrorist organizations; 2)      For students to experience an impoverished area of Casablanca, and to discover for themselves what basic necessities are, and are not, present in the lives of those who live in this neighborhood; 3)      For students to learn about the health care system in Morocco, and the barriers that people who live in poverty experience in gaining access to health care; 4)      For students to learn about the educational opportunities available to the students who live in this impoverished neighborhood; 5)      For students to learn about different models of community organizing and to assess for themselves the effectiveness of the model adopted at the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center.