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Dickinson College Launches New Minor in Ethics

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by Tony Moore

Dickinson’s Department of Philosophy will launch a minor in ethics this fall, complementing several majors across the curriculum.

"The new ethics minor offers students opportunities to clarify their values, practice critical thinking and engage in meaningful dialogue about how we should treat ourselves and others,” says Amy McKiernan, assistant professor of philosophy and director of Dickinson’s Ethics Across Campus & the Curriculum initiative. “The minor complements majors across the curriculum; we support students as they learn how to identify and address moral problems in our local and global communities." 

The minor—the result of students expressing interest in a focused dive into the subject and the college’s Strategic Framework and Priorities 2018-21—is slated to be available in the fall semester and will help solidify Dickinson’s commitment to ethical reasoning as a valuable skill and area of study. It will also provide a permanent academic home for those interested in engaging with historical and contemporary debates in ethics. 

The six-course minor will allow students to become familiar with ethical theories in the history of philosophy and contemporary debates in ethics and recognize how ethical theories inform ethical practices and how ethical practices inform ethical theories. They’ll also exercise ethical reasoning skills and learn how to defend their views with strong evidence while remaining open to the possibility that strong counterarguments or critical questions may change their minds.

“Many of us are able to say who and what we care about, but we stumble when asked why we care and how we should act because we care,” says McKiernan. “Without studying ethics, we may passively accept ideas about what counts as morally good or what constitutes moral failure without engaging in critical thinking. So, we may spend our lives thinking some action or idea is 'good' or 'evil' without ever understanding why, and we may miss opportunities to improve on what those in the past considered morally acceptable or unacceptable.”

Students seeking more information on the new minor should contact McKiernan.

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Published June 2, 2020