Dr. Mark Randolph: Yale prof makes cyber-visit to Greenhills ethics class
After having engaged a variety of ethical approaches and having confronted the difficult question of how ethics relates to literature and its study, the inaugural class for the Senior Seminar Ethics &/in Literature recently enjoyed an afternoon’s Q & A with Yale University philosophy professor Stephen Darwall.
Prof. Darwall is the Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Philosophy at Yale, but before joining that faculty he taught at the University of Michigan for 24 years, serving as the John Dewey Distinguished University Professor in the Philosophy Department. He is the author of Impartial Reason; The British Moralists and the Internal “Ought;” Philosophical Ethics; and Welfare and Rational Care.
In their teleconference with Darwall, Greenhills seniors raised questions about a number of current ethical dilemmas, like the naming and funding of university buildings and programs. They also sought Prof. Darwall’s scholarly opinion on the burning questions that have driven class discussion throughout the semester, like the relationship of political power to ethics and the ethical limits of free speech.
Amanda Sell appreciated the opportunity to, in her words, “see how our ethical knowledge held up to an expert.”
“We chatted about very relevant issues,” said Maddy Tan, “from building names to being born a moral person.”
Elaina Karpenko valued being able to get another perspective on matters she feels passionately about. For Nikil Navathe, the chance to delve into deeper ethical topics enriched his learning.
“I especially found his points on deontological ethics to be interesting and thought-provoking,” Navathe said.
The experience for the entire class was perhaps best summed up by Brynne Hindle, who explained that the conversation “put into perspective how great the work (thinking) we’re doing in this class really is.”
The students have been working not only to master the philosophical concepts but also to apply these concepts in practical ways. As a part of their final projects, the students will be hosting a conversation about the Greenhills School mission statement and the realization of (in the mission statement’s words) our “ethical potential” as we move forward in the next 50 years.
—Mark Randolph, PhD, Greenhills English Department