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UNIV 291

Prindle Selected Topics in Ethics

Prindle reading courses are designed to give students an opportunity to take a focused mini-course on a subject or issue that speaks to issues of ethical concern. The offerings are multi-disciplinary and topics will vary significantly depending on the professor and their disciplinary home.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1/4 credit

Fall Semester information

Derek Ford

291A: Prindle Reading Course: Karl Marx, Capital (Volume 1)

The first volume of Capital is a book that is often referenced but rarely read. It is a book that, although it was published in 1867, explains a good deal about our world and how we might go about fundamentally changing it. In this class, we will engage in a collective reading of Capital, paying particular attention to how it can help us understand our contemporary moment.


Craig Hadley

291B: Prindle Reading Course: Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

The Rape of Europa chronicles the "monuments men"--a team of male and female curators, artists, architects, and historians--tasked with saving European art and cultural heritage in the midst of the second world war. Together, we'll discuss the ethical implications of war, art, and the fragility of human life, efforts to repatriate artwork decades later, and contemporary case studies involving war and cultural heritage. Even today, many museums and families are still trying to make sense of what happened to European art collections during World War II. This course will introduce students to the immense complexity associated with rebuilding personal, national, and cultural identity following armed conflict.


Tamara Pollack

291C: Prindle Reading Course: The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita opens on an ancient battlefield, as rival armies are about to engage in a devastating civil war that will set relatives and family members against each other. The warrior-prince Arjuna finds himself torn between conflicting duties and moral codes: his duty as warrior and prince to defend the kingdom against injustice and chaos, and his duty to his clan, with family and friends on both sides. How can one act ethically in a situation in which both choices, to act or to withdraw, require one to break a moral code and bond of duty? Arjuna's crisis of choice sparks the message of the Gita. Through the counsel of Krishna, his charioteer and friend, whom he discovers is the great god Vishnu in human form, Arjuna is led to a new spiritual understanding of life, death, selfless action, and dharma or sacred duty. Part of the power of the Gita is its ability to unite what we might call today "philosophy" and "practice:" understanding the nature of the soul and the universe is not a purely mental exercise, but one that illumines daily living and how we arrive at the choices we make.

Probably written around the second century BCE, the Gita has been revered in India since ancient times and, today, is considered by many one of the greatest philosophical and spiritual texts of the world. It appears as a short chapter in the vast epic the Mahabharata, which is the longest poem in the world (it is roughly nine times the length of the Odyssey and Iliad combined, with more than 100,000 slokas or couplets). The Gita is considered the quintessence of the Mahabharata, the way pollen contains the essence of a flower, but it is also treated as an independent treatise on philosophy, ethics, and spiritual understanding, which is how we will be reading it in this course.

We will consider the Gita in the light of some of the traditional commentaries, the oldest of which, by the great philosopher Shankara, dates all the way back to the eighth century. We will also think about some more recent interpreters, such as Mohandas Gandhi, who called it his "Gospel of Selfless Action" and "spiritual dictionary," and drew from it inspiration for his practice of non-violent action (ahimsa), as well as western thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who called it "the first of books, and Henry David Thoreau, who took a copy with him to Walden Pond.


Angela Castaneda

291D: Prindle Reading Course: Jason De Leon, The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

The Land of Open Graves unpacks the human consequences of US immigration policy. It addresses ethical issues at the heart of migration: Do nations have an ethical obligation to do the least harm to migrants when establishing and enforcing immigration laws? What role does our country have in encouraging, discouraging, or limiting migration? How should discussions about migration be conducted? And whose voices should be included in such discussions? In addition to these question, this course will also discuss the ethics of fieldwork by addressing how De Leon used a four-field approach to anthropology to document the stories, objects, and bodies left behind in the Sonoran Desert.


Timothy Good

291E: Prindle Reading Course: Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature, and the African World

Myth, Literature, and the African World, by Wole Soyinka, a world-renowned playwright and Nobel laureate, offers specific lenses for reading and understand a contemporary Yoruban/Nigerian worldview. Instead of seeing a "clash of cultures," Soyinka shows a way to see differently, instead of in opposition.


Keith Nightenhelser

291G: Prindle Reading Course: Mini-colloquium on Important Books: Pre-modern Ethics

In this seminar students will discuss each week a different historically influential pre-modern text about what human beings value and have valued; key themes will be ideas about erotic relationships, justice, law, and death, leading up to the final text, Shakespeare's "problem" play Measure for Measure. There will be two faculty present as co-supervisors, changing each week; they will supervise student discussion, but not teach much if at all. Faculty we currently expect to participate are Profs. Barreto, B. Benedix, Dickerson, Dye, Everett, Foss, Nightenhelser, Sununu, Ziegler, and Dean Smanik, Rabbi Covitz, University Chaplain Knudsen-Langdoc, VPAA Harris, and President McCoy. Texts will include writings from the Buddhist and Abrahamic religious traditions, Plato's Apology and Crito, Plautus' comedy Amphitryon, and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. There will be no written work, so student grades will entirely depend on their participation in discussion. Students who miss a class will write a paper as make-up work. There will be three class meetings outside the usual Tu 7-8:30 pm time: 1) Wed Sep 23 7-8:30 pm, our first class, for which students will need to spend a couple of hours in preparation; 2) Tu Oct 10, attendance at "Measure for Measure" 7:30 pm to roughly 10 pm; and 3) Wed Oct 11, 11:30 -12:30 pm lunch discussion of Measure for Measure. For more information about the course, contact Keith Nightenhelser, k_night@depauw.edu.


Spring Semester information

David Alvarez

291A: Prindle Reading Course: Teresa M. Bejan, Mere Civility Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration

Is civility a virtue required for rationality or a tool of repression? We will tackle this question by reading Teresa M. Bejan's Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration. Bejan tackles this question historically, asking how the formation of religious tolerance in the Enlightenment continues to shape how we argue and feel about the practice of civility. After reading her book, we'll connect her analysis to campus debates about civility, politics, and race.

This course will meet at the Prindle Institute. The DePauw bus will take students and faculty from campus to Prindle and back. The bus will depart from the Union Building at 6:50 pm. After the course ends at 8:30, the bus will return students and faculty to the Union Building.


Keith Nightenhelser

291B: Prindle Reading Course: Mini-colloquium on Important Books: Ethics since Modernity

This Mini-Colloquium invites students to read and discuss eight historically influential books. The class meets each Tuesday evening the first half of the semester 7 - 8:30 PM, and the discussion is overseen by various DePauw professors and staff members. The DePauw professors and staff members will not be present to teach, but rather to oversee the students' discussion -- in this all-discussion course, participation in discussion will be the sole thing evaluated in arriving at a grade. (Think of it as a transition to post-college reading and discussion!) Readings will be drawn from writers such as John Stuart Mill, Gertrude Stein, Ama Ata Aidoo, Benjamin Friedman, Naomi Oreskes, and Derek Walcott.


Derek Ford

291C: Prindle Reading Course: Jodi Dean, Crowds and Party

With struggles against exploitation and oppression heightening and intensifying across the globe, the questions of alternatives to our current order and how to achieve those alternatives have been brought to center stage. In this class, we will collectively read Jodi Dean's 2016 offering to these debates, Crowds and Party. Dean's book presents us with not just a diagnosis of contemporary problems but, more importantly, a solution that is both new and old: The Party. Showing how since the 1970s political movements have embraced neoliberalism--in their celebration of individualism, small-scale activity, social media snark, and consumption-based politics--she argues that the crowd offers an opportunity to push back this trend and return social struggles to the political realm. Through an interdisciplinary conversation involving psychoanalysis, affect theory, political philosophy, and autobiography, she makes the case for collectivity, solidarity, and disciplined organization. Toward the end of our class, we will have the opportunity to discuss the book with the author via Skype.


Sherry Mou

291D: Prindle Reading Course: Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The ancient Chinese Art of War has decided relevance to modern society; for wars happen not only on the battlefield. Politicians and reformists declare "wars" to social problems, real or perceived; companies compete in war terms; and the "war between sexes" is as old as human history. What are war's motives and goals? This ancient text looks at wars from all perspectives and is still studied in both military academies and corporations. It is generally known that many Japanese companies make this book required reading for the executives. We may better understand humanity through the study of war under the guidance of the old master.


Jeanette Pope

291E: Prindle Reading Course: Letters to a Young Farmer

The question "how shall we eat?" raises important moral questions about the relationship between humans and nature and invites people to consider the costs of food production through economic, social, and environmental lenses. Each one of these aspects has ethical considerations as society grapples unknown answer of how we will sustainably feed 9 billion people. This course will explore farming and modern agriculture with the readings compiled in the recently published Letters to a Young Farmer edited by Martha Hodgkins. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to connect their classroom knowledge to applied practice by working on DePauw's campus farm.

This course will meet at the Prindle Institute. The DePauw bus will take students and faculty from campus to Prindle and back. The bus will depart from the Union Building at 6:50 pm. After the course ends at 8:30, the bus will return students and faculty to the Union Building.


Caroline Good

291F: Prindle Reading Course: Chris Hedges, Wages of Rebellion

Chris Hedges' Wages of Rebellion tracks the rebels throughout history that embodied what he calls "sublime madness." This course will examine the societal woes that spur these rebels and whistle-blowers to rise up and will explore the inevitability of revolution that drive them to rebel against empirical powers, pervasive government surveillance, a growing incarceration system, or the corporate state. As a way of extending these stories and ideas, the class will include a creative component that will involve bringing these stories and issues to life.

This course will meet at the Prindle Institute. The DePauw bus will take students and faculty from campus to Prindle and back. The bus will depart from the Union Building at 6:50 pm. After the course ends at 8:30, the bus will return students and faculty to the Union Building.