Adam Etinson

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Some Courses I've Taught


Few of us do as much as we should to help others, and this is often a powerful source of guilt and regret. At the same time, those of us who are fastidiously concerned with the needs of others, and who act accordingly (call them altruists, or “moral saints”), can sometimes seem almost inhuman and even misguided. Is the moral life a good life? How should we balance our self-interest, and other goods, against the interests of others? (syllabus)


This graduate seminar offers students an advanced introduction to key contemporary debates in human rights. The readings are interdisciplinary. The course covers current controversies regarding the history of human rights, their philosophical foundations, their cultural contestation, and their vexed relationship with realities of power. (syllabus)


This advanced undergratuate course explores philosophical questions about human dignity. What is the meaning of "human dignity"? Is this a moral, or a legal idea, or both? Is there a distinction to be drawn between dignity, on the one hand, and human dignity, on the other? What is the connection, if any, between having dignity and having rights? Is human dignity an inherently religious concept? What grounding might it have in secular ethics? (syllabus)


This undergraduate course offers students a general introduction to core topics in political philosophy, both from a historical and contemporary perspective. Topics covered include the purpose of the "state" and its legitimacy, the value of democracy, the meaning of freedom and equality, distributive justice, our obligations to foreigners, the critique of liberalism, multiculturalism, and moral progress. (syllabus)


This undergraduate course offers students a general introduction to the field of ethics. Topics covered include the question of why we should be moral, whether there are any "right" answers to moral questions, how we should live, Kantianism and Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, and the Care Ethics. A good portion of the course focuses on moral dillemmas and case studies, including abortion, euthanasia, the ethics of war, and animal rights, among others. (syllabus)


This advanced undergraduate class examines the nature, justification, and practical requirements of the ideal of toleration or tolerance. The course covers key historical readings (Saint Augustine, Pierre Bayle, John Locke, Jonas Proast, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill), key theoretical arguments (Skeptical, Relativistic, Autonomy-Based, Fallibilistic, Egalitarian, Democratic, Politically Liberal), major critiques (Wendy Brown, Herbert Marcuse), and ends by looking at difficult cases (The Satanic Verses controversy, and the Danish Cartoons) (syllabus)