Michael I. Blake
PB AF 506
Teaches students to identify moral issues in public life. Special focus on the integration of moral concerns into public discussion in a manner which contributes to good policy and does not polarize issues. Discusses moral and political theory by focusing on contemporary cases and issues.
Those who seek to govern well are continually and inescapably confronted in their political, professional, and personal decisions with questions of value. This course is designed to provoke critical thinking about the moral challenges of public policy-making and the moral responsibilities of public actors in a democracy.
The course examines two questions: (1) What should governments do? (2) What should public actors do? The first question requires us to consider public principles that guide good, just, and legitimate public policy. The second question requires us to consider the many and often competing obligations, commitments, and values that should guide public actors inside and outside government--particularly when there is disagreement about specifying and interpreting public principles, and disagreement about what is good, just, and legitimate public policy.
The conviction that guides both the course’s content and its pedagogy is that moral and political views can and should be grounded in reasons, and that reasoned changes of view are possible. Moreover, the course is premised on the view that although there are a number of ways in which questions of value might be explored, one of those ways—the methods of analytic philosophical thought—provides an important tool for the critical and reflective thinking that is necessary for successful governance. The course therefore provides regular practice in developing the skills of analytic moral reasoning, and invites reflection about one’s moral and political commitments through an ongoing engagement with classmates and authors (who may have different commitments).
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General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading