This course is designed to introduce students to the field of Christian ethics. We will read diverse selections from classical and contemporary Christian thinkers, examine various sources of and approaches to Christian ethical reflection, and critically assess a variety of contemporary moral issues. We will explore whether and how ethics done from a Christian perspective should differ from other (especially secular) traditions of moral inquiry. We will also discuss what role (if any) Christian ethics should play in the formation of public policy.
(1) Ethical Theory: Metaethics
Specific questions of good and bad or right and wrong are the matter of applied ethics. When we ask more general questions about ethical properties (e.g. what makes something good or bad, right or wrong?), we move into the realm of normative ethical theory. When we concern ourselves further with the status of morality or ask ourselves what sort of activity morality is (e.g., are moral judgments true or false, objective or subjective, and can they be established in the same ways that empirical and scientific claims can?), we move into the terrain of metaethics. This course, designed for serious students of ethics, will focus on this third set of (metaethical) questions. Theories and concepts to be discussed include: moral objectivism and varieties of moral skepticism (nihilism, expressivism, and error theory), cognitivism and non-cognitivism, realism and anti-realism, ethical naturalism, non-naturalism, and supernaturalism (viz., divine command theory).
*This course has been specifically designed to meet the curricular needs of the students enrolled therein. Accordingly, the syllabus will resemble how a metaethics course is taught in a university philosophy department, but will not cover all the topics traditionally covered therein.
(2) Animal Theology & Ethics: Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Animal Relations
Animal studies (a.k.a. human-animal studies) represents the cutting edge of academe. Scholars from a variety of disciplines are increasingly acknowledging that we can no longer bracket “the question of the animal” if we are to live truly examined lives.
This course provides a serious engagement with (secular) philosophical and (Christian) theological reflection on the ethical status of nonhuman animals as well as the nature and extent of human obligations toward them. As we raise classical philosophical, theological, and public policy/legal questions about other creatures (e.g., can animals be directly wronged? will animals be redeemed?), we will discover that we are simultaneously raising perennial questions about the human condition.
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