PHIL 241 A: Topics in Ethics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
Location: 
LOW 205
SLN: 
22182
Instructor:
Alison Wylie

Syllabus Description:

Ethics in Science

Weekly readings and assignments
Case Study Project groups
Syllabus: downloadable PDF
UW and Philosophy Department course policies: downloadable PDF

This is a course about the ethics of science and scientific research, with an emphasis on the non-medical sciences. The questions we’ll be discussing this quarter include: What counts as research misconduct? Outright fraud is clearly unacceptable, but what about more subtle forms of error and misrepresentation? Is it ever justified to put human or animal subjects at risk in the name of science? What responsibilities do scientists have to protect against ‘dual use’: malicious uses of scientific knowledge? More generally, what responsibility do scientists have for the social and environmental impact of their research, including unintended and unforeseen consequences? Is there research scientists shouldn’t do?

We will engage these issues with the help of philosophical tools; we begin the quarter with an introduction to the concepts and methods developed by philosophical ethicists and an overview of philosophical analyses of the role of values in science. We then apply this framework to case studies drawn from the social and natural sciences. We hope to challenge you to think broadly about the role of scientists in society and to critically assess the ethical consequences science for humankind and the social, natural environments in which we live.

Learning objectives

Our goals for this course are that you will:

  • learn key philosophical concepts related to the responsible conduct of research;
  • develop familiarity with current debates in, and case studies of, ethical issues in non-medical scientific research;
  • acquire skills of analysis that put you in a position to describe and explain the rationale for divergent ethical positions;
  • apply philosophical analysis to real-world ethical issues and challenges in scientific research;
  • reflect on the responsibilities that natural and social scientists, research subjects, and citizens jointly share for the wise direction and use of research;
  • demonstrate these skills and the relevant content knowledge in oral and written form, and in constructive debate.

Required texts
David Resnik, The Ethics of Science: An Introduction (Routledge 1998).
All other readings will be available on this course website.

Requirements
For an overview of the course requirements and course-specific policies, see the syllabus.
For assignment details, see the 'Assignments' list or follow the links from the weekly assignment pages.

Additional Details:

This is a course about the ethics of science and scientific research, with an emphasis on the non-medical sciences. It will provide a foundation for thinking about and recognizing the ethical dimensions of a variety of issues that are matters of current debate in a range of scientific fields. The topics we will consider include: the role of social values in science and ideals of objectivity; the rights and interests of human subjects as well as other stakeholders affected by research; misconduct in research, including not only outright fraud but also more subtle forms of error and misrepresentation; the ethics of research collaboration, publication and peer review; and ethical decision making about risky research, what lines of inquiry scientists should pursue.

 We will engage these issues with the help of philosophical tools the concepts and methods of analysis developed by philosophical ethicists which we will be applying to case studies. We will be challenging you to think broadly about the role of scientists in society and to critically assess the ethical consequences science for humankind and the social, natural environments in which we live.

Learning objectives

Our goals in this course are that you should come away with the following content knowledge, skills, and insights:

  • You will learn key philosophical concepts related to the responsible conduct of research.
  • Develop familiarity with current debates in, and case studies of, ethical issues in non-medical scientific research.
  • You will acquire skills of analysis that put you in a position to describe and explain the rationale for divergent ethical positions.
  • You will have practiced applying philosophical analysis to real-world ethical issues/challenges in scientific research.
  • You will have reflected on the responsibilities that natural and social scientists, research subjects, and citizens jointly share for the wise direction and use of research.
  • And you will have demonstrated mastery of the objectives noted above orally, in written form, and in constructive debate.

TEXT: The Ethics of Science: An Introduction, David Resnik.

Catalog Description: 
Introduction to ethics through in-depth study of one or more selected topics (e.g., limits of moral community, animal rights, moral education, and freedom). Topics vary.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Credits: 
5.0
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:07pm