Honors | Individual Rights & Social Responsibility (LAMP)
L416 | 18381 | Norm Furniss

TuTh 11:15am-12:30pm

In this seminar we will look at he troubled boundary between the
value of individual liberty and the value of living in a democratic,
pluralist society. Within variously interpreted limits, we all
cherish the freedom to do and say what we want, and we usually, not
always, acknowledge the right of others to do the same. But this is
not the whole story. For most of us our liberties do not exist in
solitary splendor; we also have loyalties and commitments to our
families, to our society, to our employer, to our country. This
condition of embedded liberty raises a number of issues that
directly affect our lives. We will ground our investigations in the
concept of ethics, which, following the legal theorist Ronald
Dworkin, we will define as convictions about what kinds of lives are
good or bad for ourselves and for others to lead.

In approaching what is meant by an ethical life and how we might go
about living one, we begin with John Stuart Mill’s famous treatise,
On Liberty, and its reflection (or lack there-of) in political and
social life in America today. Among the specific topics we will
examine will be the role of religion in American life, and the
tensions between the expression of individual civil liberties and
the demands of national security arising from our “war” on
terrorism. We then consider ethics in our personal lives, including
marriage and work. We conclude by looking at our responsibilities as
citizens of the world. Our specific focus will be the challenge of
global warming.


Mill, On Liberty, and Flannery, The Weather Makers, are available
for purchase at the IMU Bookstore. There are a number of other
important readings. As noted in the Class Schedule, these are either
on “e reserve” (E), or on the web (W), or they will be handed out in
class (H).


In my view all of our seminar work should aim to further what the
German/English Sociologist Karl Mannheim called “democratic
education.” For Mannheim, democratic education involves “learning
the essential things and taking a definite stand.” This combination
is both necessary and not easy to achieve. In the social sciences
especially, learning “facts” apart from context and relevance is
sterile, and expressing uninformed opinions is vacuous.

There are four specific assignments. The first is to come to class
prepared to discuss the readings and associated issues. The second
(“learn the essential things”) is to take two examinations, one on
October 10, the other on November 30. (There is no final
examination,) The third (“taking a definite stand”), is to write a
series of one page position papers. Topics are given in the Class
Schedule. Each seminar member will write on five of the nine. The
fourth (our engagement with ethics) is to write a series
of “Reflections” papers. There are six possibilities: “Religion,
Spirituality, and an Ethical life;” “The Ethics of Political
Dissent;” “Our Responsibilities as Democratic Citizens;”  “Does an
Ethical Life mean a Happy Life?” “Ethics on the Job;”
and “Reflections on Global Ethics.” Each seminar member will write
on the final issue and on three of the other five. If more papers
are written, the highest grades will count. Further discussion is
found in the Class Schedule. All papers must be handed in on the
days they are due.


I have come to see “grading” as at least as much a tool for learning
as it is a means of assessment. We will discuss implications in
class. Formally, your grade will be computed on the following basis:
Examinations, 20% each; Position Papers, 20% total; Reflections
papers, 40% total. Your final grade can never be lower than this
average. Under a number of conditions we will outline in class,
including effective seminar participation, your final grade could be