Howard University College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Philosophy
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Ethics and Public Policy

Dr. Segun Gbadegesin

The policy arena is doubtless a source of moral dilemmas: what ought we to do about employment and inflation, taxation and social services, industrial development and the environment, abortion, assisted suicide, capital punishment and a whole lot of others? Solutions that are acceptable to all interested parties are almost impossible to come by. This is the nature of moral issues. Yet they invite and indeed demand solutions, and this is where philosophical intervention is required. For in some cases, the real problem may not be the issues themselves but the differences in the way we conceptualize them. When conceptions get muddled, philosophical analysis in needed to untangle them. This is a prerequisite for an adequate resolution of the real problems, and it is one important role that philosophy plays in public policy debate.

In this course, we will focus on a particular moral issue: social and economic justice. Philosopher Rawls once asserted that justice is the first order of social systems as truth is the first order of conceptual systems. This is true to a large extent. For an unjust social arrangement breeds unrest: where there is no endeavor to answer during the course of this seminar. To do that, we will look at various answers that have been provided, including the liberal, the libertarian, the Marxist, the Communitarian and the Africana perspectives. The main objective of the course is to familiarize participants with the major theories of justice and to encourage them to interrogate the theories, identify problems and proffer answers. It is expected that at the end of the course, each participant will have an adequate understanding of all the theories.


2 short papers, 1 presentation and a term paper on any aspect of the seminar. The topic for the term paper will be cleared with the instructor by October 7. Every seminar participant will attend every session, do all assignments, including reading ahead of class and participate actively in class.

1st paper: 25%

2nd paper: 25%

Presentation: 20%

Term paper: 30%


African American Philosophy
Afro-Caribbean Philosophy
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy
Ancient Greek Philosophy
Classical Ethics
Comparative Philosophy: Philosophical Explanations of Evil Across Cultures
Current Topics: Philosophy and Ethics of Appropriate Technology and Development
Current Topics: Africana Philosophy and Film
Environmental Ethics
Ethics and Public Policy
Ethics of Medical Care
Ethics of Medical Care
History of Africana Philosophy
Introduction to Ethics
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
Medieval Philosophy
Modern Philosophy
Philosophy of Education
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Social Science
Principles of Reasoning
Representative Thinkers
Seminar on Aristotle 
Symbolic Logic


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