Honors Interdisciplinary Seminars

Spring 2015

HONR 3310-01
Health Policy in an Era of Reform

Tues / 11:45am – 1:25pm & Thurs / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq H)
CRN: 34089

Prof. Kristin Madison
Department of Health Sciences
School of Law

Health reform has dominated headlines for much of the last few years.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and numerous other reform initiatives led by policymakers, health care providers, employers, and others have the potential to completely transform the health care system.  In this course, we will look behind the headlines to evaluate the implications of these initiatives for health care access, cost, and quality, and ultimately for health.  Through readings, class discussions, and research papers and presentations, we will explore diverse health policy-related issues, including obesity, health incentives, direct-to-consumer advertising, health disparities, malpractice liability, and the Affordable Care Act.  We will then identify the common themes that weave these topics together and discuss their implications for the future health care system.

 

HONR 3310-02
Visual Music

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 34091

Prof. Dennis Miller
Department of Music

This course will survey the interrelationship of sound and image throughout history starting with Isaac Newton’s publication Optiks in 1704 to the present day.  Visual Music, which is defined as film, video and animation that is informed by processes drawn from music composition, is one way in which artists have sought to link sound and image. Unlike traditional film, in which music is used to enhance or support a mood or feeling in the imagery, visual music emphasizes abstract imagery for which the mood or affect is guided by the music.  In addition to Newton’s publications, we shall assess the contributions of the visual artists and painters of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Finally, we will view film and animation from the 20th century including the Disney classic Fantasia, as well as recent 21st century directions in visual music.   Students will have the opportunity to focus on topics of their own choosing through research papers and in-class presentations.

 

HONR 3310-03
Social Fact from Fiction: Using Novels to Explore Contemporary Social Problems and Public Policy

Wed / 5:00pm – 8:00pm
CRN: 34090

Prof. David Rochefort
Department of Political Science

Harriet Beecher Stowe and slavery.  Upton Sinclair and unhealthy working conditions.  John Steinbeck and the Great Depression.  Richard Wright and racial inequality.  There is a long tradition of concern in American fiction with emerging or neglected social problems.  At its best, such work has had far-reaching effects, first in raising public awareness, and second in triggering public policy reforms.  The purpose of this honors seminar will be to examine the way that novelists on the contemporary scene are using their writing to explore poverty, homelessness, mental illness, race relations, domestic abuse, and other important social issues.  Reading fiction can be a powerful experience that brings together the “historical,” “social,” and “personal” dimensions of life in our society.  By focusing on a series of noteworthy realist novels, this course aims to cover both the factual basis of the texts and the narrative devices, such as plotting, characterization, symbolism, subjective description, and normative judgment, used by authors to cast a spotlight on social problems and their impacts.

 

HONR 3310-04
From the Wobblies to Occupy: The Culture, Politics, and Representation of Popular Struggle

Tues / 5:00pm – 8:00pm
CRN: 34914

Prof. Jeffrey Juris
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Occupy Wall Street burst onto the scene in September 2011 to challenge skyrocketing inequality, bank bailouts, and socio-economic injustice, reinvigorating the long-simmering hope in the U.S. and around the world that radical social change was possible. For many observers, the Occupy Movement came out of nowhere, but for scholars and long-time activists, Occupy was the continuation of long tradition of grassroots social movements in this country and abroad. This interdisciplinary honors seminar explores this history of radical social movement organizing in the U.S. and around the world through a consideration of the ways various social movements have been narrated, explained, and represented by activists, academics, and documentary film makers. Why do people collectively challenge political authorities? Why at other times do they engage in more everyday forms of resistance? When and why do groups refuse to accept the status quo and let others speak for them? Why do they decide to protest in the streets rather than express their grievances through representative institutions? What strategies and tactics do they choose, and how do authorities, the mass media, and fellow citizens respond? How does collective action produce new social identities, new cultural forms, new media practices, and new modes of democracy? When and why do social movements succeed or fail? Each session will combine a brief introductory lecture with a documentary film and discussion of course readings and student writing about a particular struggle, such as the civil rights, women’s, environmental, global justice, Tea Party, Arab Spring, and Occupy movements.

 

HONR 3310-05
Survival of the Fittest

Tues, Fri / 1:35pm – 3:15pm
CRN: 34092

Prof. Sara Wadia-Fascetti
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Survival of the Fittest is a course in real-world product development and commercialization.  The course is run with several interdisciplinary teams of students from all majors, supported by technical and commercial mentors from industry and academia. The teams will select a technical / commercial opportunity (T/C-O) to develop into a workable business plan.  During the course, teams will define, refine, and validate opportunities through market and technical analyses, modeling and initial prototyping. At three defined points in the course “product reckonings” will occur where teams will advocate for the continued development of their product ideas or recommend the discontinuation of development.  A panel of industry and academic experts will select “surviving opportunities” which receive additional resources and continue to further in-depth development.  Team members from discontinued opportunities will join the teams working on the surviving opportunities. At the end of the final reckoning the “fittest opportunity” will move over to our industry partner for potential commercialization.  Throughout the course students will learn about project management, team dynamics and building successful teams as well as intellectual property and its protection, cost and finance modeling, technology commercialization and product development in a high technology industry.

Please note: Instructor’s permission is required to enroll in this course.  To apply for permission, please click here.

 

HONR 3310-06
Scientific Approaches to Philosophy: From Evolution to Quantum Physics

Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm
CRN: 34336

Prof. Rory Smead
Department of Philosophy and Religion

This course will explore the connection between scientific discovery and fundamental philosophical questions. Science has produced a wealth of knowledge addressing issues ranging from evolution to quantum physics.  Philosophy has struggled with critical and central questions that have remained largely unanswered despite over a thousand years of investigation. Central to philosophy are questions about the distinction between appearance and reality, whether we have free will, whether our future is predetermined, or if there is a fundamental value to human life?  During the course, we will assess recent attempts to answer classic philosophical questions by drawing on science and scientific methods.  While science may not be able to answer these questions, it may help us change how we think about them.  For instance, what does evolutionary theory help us to understand about ethics?  What does quantum physics tell us about pre-determination?  Or what does psychology contribute to our understanding of consciousness? One answer that we may reach is that there are questions that are fundamentally beyond the grasp of science.

 

HONR 3310-07
Pagans, Jews, and Christians: The Religions of Rome

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm
CRN: 35467

Prof. Susan Setta
Department of Philosophy and Religion

Students who register for this course will be required to participate in an embedded international program to Rome, Italy the week of spring break. The dates of that program will be March 7 to March 13, 2014. An additional fee of $1,100 will be charged to your student account for this course.

This course will explore the Roman religious marketplace’s offerings of paganism, Judaism and Christianity. Beginning with a theoretical discussion of religion, it will look at the theologies, rituals, ethics, and practices of these religions as they express themselves in the art and architecture of Rome. It will also analyze the way in which Christianity emerges as a syncretistic religion that blends theology from earlier religions in its symbols, rituals. The planned trip will bring students to apply the knowledge acquired during the course through a on-site exploration of some of Rome’s most significant monuments and artifacts.  Combining traditional lectures, seminar-style discussion and a invaluable experiential learning opportunity, this course will be both unique and unforgettable.

 

HONR 3310-08
Law and Human Behavior

Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm
CRN: 35467

Prof. Richard Daynard
School of Law

Most laws and public policies in the United States are based on the Utilitarian conception of man as a rational calculator of his self-interest. Recent findings in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics, however, have critically undermined the Utilitarian view. The course will compare and evaluate competing accounts of human behavior and, in turn, consider their implications for law-and policy-making. More precisely, students in the course will analyze whether – and in what circumstances— it would be appropriate for the government to enact regulations that prescribe, proscribe, or “nudge” human behavior.  Topic covered will include: obesity, smoking, gambling, organ donations, pension plans, the housing market, health care, end of life decisions, and global warming. During the course, students are expected to participate actively in seminar-style class discussions and write a research paper.

 

HONR 3310-09
The Urban Experience in the  21st Century

Wed / 4:35pm – 5:35pm and 6:00pm – 8:00pm
CRN: 37284

Prof. Barry Bluestone
Department of Political Science

Prof. Berna Turam
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

This interdisciplinary course will focus on the 21st century city exploring how urban centers in the U.S. and around the globe are changing demographically, economically, socially, and politically. The course begins with an exploration of the functions of cities and how these are carried out in practice. The course continues by looking at the opportunities and challenges facing the modern city including such topics as the provision of affordable housing, job creation, integration of immigrants, public health, transportation, and education. Data for the course will come from studying individual cites including such cites as Boston, Newton, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Manila, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai.

The honors seminar is linked to the Myra Kraft Open Classroom lectures that are held on Wednesday evening. Speakers during the Spring 2015 seminar will include city mayors and managers, urban experts, and experts on global cities.

 

HONR 3310-10
Business for Global Good:  An Interdisciplinary Inquiry into the Moral Dimensions of Business Policy and Strategic Decision-Making

Wed / 5:00pm – 7:00pm; will also meet 1:00pm – 5:00pm on one Saturday per month (dates TBD)
CRN: 37285

Prof. Dennis Shaughnessy
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, DMSB

Moving beyond the financial and legal context to the moral dimension of business, this course will analyze the social consequences of strategic business choices and the decision-making process behind them. The seminar offers an inquiry-based approach to learning, where students will not only read and research topics in considerable depth, but also develop their own decision-making frameworks, theoretical models and policy recommendations for change. The course includes an historical analysis of the context of several business policy and decision-making instances, which are characterized by considerable social consequences.  Thus, for example, students will discuss why McDonald’s chooses to pay less than a living wage to entry level workers; why the drug companies that developed new treatments for HIV/AIDS price their products beyond the reach of those with the greatest need; and why GM delays vehicle recall decisions despite evident harm to customers.  Students will also analyze current and future opportunities for values-based approaches that could lead to more socially beneficial outcomes — i.e. the “global good”.  In particular, they will debate the potential for alignment of social justice goals with business objectives. During the course students will read, analyze, participate, write, work in groups and make oral presentations.

 

Fall 2014

HONR 3310-01
Social Justice: The Role of Reading, Writing, and Understanding Non-Fiction

Mon / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15097

Michael Patrick MacDonald
Honors Program Writer-in-Residence

In order to write the most effective non‐fiction around social justice issues, a writer might undertake personal reflection on their own life to access that “place” that allows for greater empathy. When we write about issues affecting other people’s lives, it is important to engage in a process of contemplation that will lead to more in‐depth understanding, and create a unique and passionate “voice” that brings the reader in. This is true, no matter where we come from or what our previous exposure to the issues at hand. This model is the mark of training in traditional fields such as anthropology and the new genre of “self aware” contemporary writing that contributes to our understanding of social issues. This “writing classroom” will help students engage in critical thought and discussion of a wide range of social issues as well as grassroots movement for change. Central unifying themes of the course will be poverty, violence, and the intersection of social justice and healing efforts in communities affected by both. We will focus on the implications for writers of non‐fiction on these topics. The course will present an “insider’s” view into writing with a greater consciousness of these topics by starting with some of my work, which includes two memoirs, a screen‐play, editorials and a work‐in‐progress on solutions to gang violence in Massachusetts. Second, the course will move outward to the works of other significant writers of non‐fiction – what has made their work so effective and memorable? Have the works influenced or been influenced by contemporary social problems? Are there policy links to any of these writings? Finally, the course will frame a discussion of the many ways to write non‐fiction about these central themes: as memoirs, non‐fiction books, as reports, as news articles, and as policy initiatives. This course is suitable for students interested in general public policy issues, criminal justice concerns, social problems and social justice, journalism, urban anthropology, international affairs, English and the practice of writing.

 

HONR 3310-02
Promoting Success Through Prevention Science

Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq B)
CRN: 15098

Prof. Emily Mann
Human Services Program

Child maltreatment, school failure, delinquency, and substance abuse are complicated social problems with complex causes and multifaceted solutions. Over the last century, intervention has been framed to “cure” these social problems and others. And yet individuals, families, and communities continue to be plagued by these issues. This course will ask the question “how can we prevent, intervene, and treat social problems in a more effective manner?” Using frameworks from public health, social work, psychology, sociology and family studies, we will explore the implementation of “best practices” as defined by the field known as prevention science. We will assess programmatic ability to reduce social problems and enhance positive outcomes for children, their families, and their communities. We will examine the feasibility and effectiveness of universal and selective prevention, intervention, and treatment programs on a wide range of contemporary social problems. Through class readings and discussions, we will begin to better understand what makes programs work – who is most effectively reached, whether there is an optimal intervention point, and why some programs work and others do not.

 

HONR 3310-03
Can There Be Morality In Politics?

Wed / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15099

Prof. David Rochefort
Department of Political Science

Who lives and who dies? How should scarce resources be allocated? What degree of inequality should be allowed between different social groups? When should the power of the state be used for coercion, punishment, destruction, or blame? These are just some of the weighty issues in politics that involve a critical moral dimension. The purpose of this course is to review a series of case studies in which morality and pragmatism have competed for attention in the policy making process. Through in-depth discussion of the background of these historical and contemporary situations and the controversies they provoked, students in this highly interactive seminar will examine the consideration of morality in politics and how leaders confront questions of means v. ends, rival stakeholder interests, short v. long-term benefit, and other challenging quandaries.

 

HONR 3310-04
Entrepreneurial Thinking

Thurs / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15100

Prof. Justin Craig
Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Entrepreneurial thinking lies at the heart of our innovation economy. Entrepreneurship involves both a skillset and a mindset.  This course will introduce students to the proven skillset that successful entrepreneurs need in order to launch and grow a new venture. It will also illustrate why and how entrepreneurship is a mindset, which involves different ways of thinking about problems and opportunities.

Entrepreneurs do think differently. The ability to think “like an entrepreneur” has become a core skill of the managerial mind and the leadership ethos in virtually every sphere of human activity.  “Entrepreneurial management” has become quintessential  with good management practice. The central focus of this course, therefore, is to develop the skills and mindset that students need in order to think entrepreneurially. Throughout the course, students will learn the concepts related to entrepreneurial thinking and action.  Most importantly, they will appreciate that entrepreneurship exists in various contexts — e.g. technology entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, family enterprise, and social entrepreneurship.

 

HONR 3310-05
A History of Espionage & Covert Operations in the Cold War

Wed / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15101

Prof. Jeffrey Burds
Department of History

Commonly referred to as the world’s “second oldest profession,” espionage has become an intrinsic part of the relations between communities, institutions, and states. This course explores the history of espionage during the Cold War era (1943-1991) through a series of emblematic case studies. To this end, it draws from a wide variety of published and unpublished, primary and secondary sources, supplemented by modern theoretical and social science perspectives, literature, and films,. Working individually and in teams, students will explore the history of covert operations, with a special focus on the following sub-themes: the origins of the Cold War in World War II; the postwar battle for German scientists; Containment and Rollback; Venona and code-breaking; nuclear spies; defectors; proxy wars; insurgencies and counterinsurgencies; terrorism; technology.

Students will create a framework for understanding the alternative roles of espionage in wartime and peacetime, as well as the standard methods for establishing and running agent networks in hostile conditions.

 

HONR 3310-06
The Art of Narrative Non-Fiction: From the Survivors of Hiroshima to the Garbage Pickers of Mumbai

Thurs / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15103

Prof. James Ross
School of Journalism

We will read and discuss the work of some of the most compelling non-fiction writers of the 20th and 21st century and screen some of the films based on their works. We will watch and discuss a film one week, and discuss the author and the book on which the film was based the following week. These authors narrate true stories but use devices normally associated with fiction, such as scenic construction, dialogue and shifting points of view.
John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” first published in The New Yorker magazine in 1946, portrayed the lives of six survivors of the atomic blast and showed the horrors of nuclear warfare in human terms. Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966) reconstructed the savage murder of a farmer and his family in Holcomb, Kansas and the search, capture and execution of the two killers. The film “Capote,” among others, is based on this non-fiction novel. Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” (1977) is a vivid, first-hand account from soldiers on the front lines of the Vietnam War. Some of the characters in the book appeared in Herr’s screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket.” Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief”(1998) was the basis for the film “Adaptation,” starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

In the course, we will also discuss the narrative non-fiction of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, John McPhee, Gay Talese, Tracy Kidder and Katherine Boo. Finally, we will examine some of the issues raised by this type of journalism, particularly the blurring of lines between fiction and non-fiction, and analyze the use of narrative elements, photography, editing and sound in the films.

 

HONR 3310-07
Visual Art and Visual Culture Since 1945

Tues / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15291

Prof. William Kaizen
Department of Art + Design

The years after 1945 saw, as art critic Irving Sandler phrased it, the “triumph of American painting.” Visual art in the U.S. had at last achieved an unprecedented level of international prestige. At the same time, many saw the increasing proliferation of mass cultural forms as a threat to this precarious achievement. This course will both survey and question the purportedly dialectical relationship between ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms of visual culture with a focus on the post-World War II U.S., as articulated in the visual arts (Pop Art, feminist art, and performance art), film (genre film vs. auteur films vs. avant-garde films), television (sitcoms and the counter-culture’s use of TV news), and digital media (computers as work, play and fine art). We will also examine the global influence — and criticism — of contemporary U.S. visual culture, as well as the influence of other cultures on the U.S. (especially British and Japanese pop culture).

 

HONR 3310-08
Contemporary Issues in Health Care

Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq D)
CRN: 15377

Prof. Lorna Hayward
Department of Physical Therapy

The course will examine modern health care issues at various levels — i.e. individual, local, national, and global. Through the course, students will develop an understanding of U.S. health care issues in a historical context, with a specific focus on the recent changes to the US health care system through the nationwide implementation of Obama Care. Students will also discuss health care issues abroad. Students will learn about health care in other developed nations such as Japan, Germany, and England. In addition, we will read current literature that chronicles the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, in the underdeveloped nations of Haiti, Peru and Russia. Finally, students will analyze health decisions from multiple perspectives, such as: historical, political, ethical, financial, technological, and epidemiological. Strategies for promotion of self care will be accomplished through exposure to important topics such as nutrition, stress and stress reduction techniques. Additional topics include telemedicine and how medical ethics impacts the delivery of care and end of life decisions in medicine.

 

HONR 3310-09
After the Walls Came Down: Central Europe Before, During and After Communism

Mon / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15413

Prof. Harlow Robinson
Department of History

The goal of this course is to understand the human dimensions of the dramatic political changes that have taken place in Central and Eastern Europe since 1945. What has it been like to live through the rise and fall of Communism, and into the brave—and often frightening–new world of capitalism? Using historical writings, memoirs, novels and films, we will examine the transformation of the societies in this volatile region during the post-war period, with particular attention to Czechoslovakia (later Czech Republic and Slovakia), East Germany and Hungary. Austria, the only country in the region to develop an enduring capitalist economy and democratic government after 1945, will provide a different comparative model. Why did Communism appeal to so many people in these countries? How did national and cultural factors influence the way the various Communist regimes arose and developed? How did the USSR attempt to control the local populations? How have these various countries and societies dealt with the difficult transition from Communism to capitalism? The goal of the course is to understand better what people gained—and what they lost—when the fences and walls came tumbling down from Berlin to Prague to Budapest.

 

HONR 3310-10
Limits on Scientific Knowledge: Chaos, Complexity, and Computability

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 16942

Prof. Waleed Meleis
Electrical & Computer Engineering Department

The principle of determinism – the belief that future behavior can be known and determined from an analysis of current conditions – has shaped contemporary scientific knowledge in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other areas. This seminar begins with an exploration of this principle, and then focuses on four important conceptual challenges that were discovered during the 20th century, and which reduce the applicability of determinism: chaos, complexity, uncertainty, and non-computability. These ideas have had a dramatic effect on scientific disciplines as diverse as biology, computer science, economics, sociology, and engineering, and on applications such as weather prediction, genome sequencing, and cell phone routing. In understanding these challenges, we will discuss their practical implications for scientists. Throughout the seminar students will get hands-on experience using software packages.

 

HONR 3310-11
50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”: Jazz, Vision and Divine Inspiration

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 16943

Prof. Leonard Brown
Department of Music
Department of African American Studies

This course will focus on the major contributions of John Coltrane to jazz and American music with a specific focus on his composition “A Love Supreme”, which blurred the aesthetic and commercial borders of musical genres generally classified as jazz, religious, pop, secular, spiritual or sacred.

The course will start with a biographical examination of Coltrane’s cultural roots and his early exposure to music and culture including his formative years in North Carolina and Philadelphia. We will explore his subsequent apprenticeships with jazz masters including Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. We will then assess Coltrane’s spiritual awakening and his subsequent continued musical growth and mastery; his interest in world musical forms, styles and belief systems; his growth and development as an innovative virtuoso and creative artist; and his continued spiritual evolution and impact. Finally, we will gauge his cultural impact on literature, poetry, film, and the African American experience through his musical, political, social, and spiritual quest.

As part of the course, we will attend the 37th John Coltrane Memorial Concert in the fall of 2014, which will feature a special 50th anniversary performance of “A Love Supreme.” “A Love Supreme” was Coltrane’s musical offering expressing his faith and belief in God; a four-part suite in which Coltrane expresses gratitude, joy and humility for the grace that God has bestowed on him. It is a testimony to Coltrane’s deep spiritual roots, musical genius and use of music as “a force for good.” As a result of this composition, which is considered one of the most significant of the 20th century, John Coltrane became “a preacher on his horn”. . His impact and influence on rock, rap/hip-hop, pop, blues, classical and jazz musicians is significant.

 

HONR 3310-12
From Potions to the Modern Pharmaceutical Empire: The Changing Approaches to Drug Therapy in the US

Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq D)
CRN: 16987

Prof. Nathaniel Rickles
Department of Pharmacy Practice

This interactive course will take students through a historical and comparative exploration of how medications are developed and used in treatment. Specifically, we will examine how medication development, access, use and outcomes are shaped not only by developments in medical/pharmaceutical research but also by political decisions, culture, and the prevailing social science paradigms. For example, we will explore how both scientific advances and cultural evolution have shaped mental health care and treatment over time.

The course will historically situate medication use in the US and compare it with other cultures’. We will analyze drug therapy through cultural artifacts (such as memoirs and film) and debate with consumers and other stakeholders. Students will develop individual, in-depth and comparative analyses of an aspect of drug treatment. As a class, we will elaborate a synthesis of political, cultural, scientific and medical critiques of the major artifacts, which we explored during the course. At the end of the semester, students will acquire an interdisciplinary understanding of the complexity of contemporary health care issues.

 

HONR 3310-13
Justice: What is Right and Why

Wed / 4:35pm – 5:35pm; 6:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 17526

Prof. Barry Bluestone
Department of Political Science

Prof. Paola Cesarini
Department of Political Science; Director, University Honors Program

With the participation of leading scholars in social science, law, public policy and philosophy, the course offers a multidisciplinary approach to an exploration of “justice” as an ethical, legal, political, economic, and social concept. It also delves into a wide range of topics related to justice – i.e. criminal justice, civil justice, economic justice, social justice, environmental justice, transitional justice, global justice and international justice, etc. — all of which turn on the question posed by Harvard University Professor of Government, Michael J. Sandel: “What is the Right Thing to Do?”

As a starting point, this course will address key questions about the meaning of justice and analyze contrasting views as to the basis for ethical behavior. More specifically, it will compare and contrast three perspectives on the subject: justice as welfare maximization, justice as individual rights, and justice as virtue and “the good life”. Next, the course will explore the philosophical roots of ethical behavior — perhaps uncomfortably suggesting that what is the right thing to do is not always obvious.