*FRSEMR 63H. Ethics for a Broken World

This seminar borrows its title from philosopher Tim Mulgan’s book of the same name. Mulgan imagines how basic questions about ethics and political justice might look to our descendants in one all-too-possible world: a “broken” world in which critical natural systems can no longer be depended on for basic goods, where disaster strikes unpredictably and peace cannot be guaranteed. The book takes the form of a series of philosophy lectures, drawn from a course taught some time in the future, looking back on our own time as an “age of affluence” whose basic moral and political outlooks were shaped by expectations of material security that can no longer be maintained. This is a stark, emotionally daunting, and powerful framing device. By working through the book in detail, we will aim to come to an uncompromisingly clear-eyed view of the central ethical and political issues that are rapidly confronting us as the ecological crisis unfolds. It is too late to avert the crisis: Like it or not, profound changes in lifestyle will be forced on all of us, if we do not wish to leave the world so broken as to be uninhabitable. How can these changes be managed in as just a fashion as possible? How can we build the resilience into our social and political institutions needed to weather the coming storms as humanely as possible? What basic stances towards ethics and politics will we have to rethink? These are some of the questions we will attempt to answer.

Requirements: Course open to Freshman Students Only


Ned Hall







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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2019-2020 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

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