BAEcon Development Studies / Course details
Year of entry: 2022
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Course unit details:
The Good Life: An Anthropology of Ethics
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This course will focus on the anthropology of ethics to ask how people conceptualise the good life and good ways to live. Drawing on a range of traditions that inform anthropological understandings of ethics, we will address ethical questions across a range of fields. Some key areas of concern will include the relationship between the individual and collectivities, the ethical and the moral and the interpenetration of public and private domains.
The course unit aims to: Introduce students to the Anthropology of Ethics.
This course will focus on the anthropology of ethics to ask how people conceptualise the good life and good ways to live. The sub-field of the Anthropology of ethics is seen to have originated as a distinct area of investigation since 2001, although, of course, anthropologists have been concerned with what might be termed ethical questions (i.e. questions about how to live) since the inception of the discipline. The kinds of questions that are of interest include: why do people follow moral rules or codes of conduct? Are there some things that are universally considered good (or bad)? Do the same moral codes or rules apply to all members of a given social group? To what extent is being good the result of obedience to extant rules and to what extent is this, a product of reflection and conscious willed action?
Drawing on a range of traditions and theoretical underpinnings that inform anthropological understandings of ethics, we will address ethical questions across a range of fields - from religion to politics to economics. Some key areas of concern will include the relationship between the individual and collectivises, the ethical and the moral and the interpenetration of public and private domains. We will also spend time on the question of relativism, e.g. other words, is a good always a good or does it depend on social and other contexts?
Teaching and learning methods
2 lecture hours and 1 seminar hour per week.
Knowledge and understanding
Knowledge and Understanding:
Develop an understanding of the growing sub-field of the Anthropology of Ethics.
Explore what it might mean to be a good person and ask whether this might be context-dependent or context independent.
Explore the relationship between:
Is and ought
Ethics and morality
Public and private spheres
Engage with debates within the Anthropology of Ethics
Critically read and write about a number of key texts in the Anthropology of Ethics and related sub-fields.
Engage critically with the notion of Relativism.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
Transferable skills and personal qualities:
Critical engagement with complex questions, and effective written and spoken communication.
|Written assignment (inc essay)||80%|
Electronic and personalised feedback
Durkheim, Emile. 1993. Ethics and the Sociology of Morals. Translated and with an introduction by Robert T. Hall. New York: Prometheus.
Linton, Ralph. 1952. Universal Ethical Principles: An Anthropological Point of View. In R. N. Anshen (ed.), Moral Principles of Action: Man Ethical Imperative. New York: Harper.
Andrade, Roy. 1995. Moral Models in Anthropology. Current Anthropology 16(3): 399-408.
Fiske, Alan and Kathyn Mason. 1990. Moral Relativism. Special Issue of Ethos. 18(2).
Howell, Signe (ed.), 1997. The Ethnography of Moralities. London: Routledge.
Kleinman, Arthur. 1999. Experience and Its Moral Modes: Culture, Human Conditions, and Disorder. In G.B. Peterson (ed), The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 20:357-420. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
Mattingly, Cheryl. 1998. In Search of the Good: Narrative Reasoning in Clinical Practice. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 12(3): 273-97.
Parkin, David (ed). 1985. The Anthropology of Evil
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Soumhya Venkatesan||Unit coordinator|