The newspapers are filled with examples of ethical lapses on the part of elected officials, business leaders, and professionals in medicine, law, the academy, and law enforcement. Stanford has recently adopted an ethics requirement for all undergraduates. For the first time, every Stanford student will need to confront big questions. What is the difference between law and morality? What obligations do we have to others? Does Homer's idea of honor have any bearing for me? Is it ever acceptable to lie? Should genetic enhancements be permissible? Are torture and drones legitimate means to use in war?
Our panelists Barbara Fried, Benoît Monin, and Tamar Schapiro will probe and debate what an ethics requirement can accomplish. Among the questions they will consider are: can learning ethics make a person more ethical, and if so, how? If learning ethics is not closely linked to acting ethically, what other purposes might it accomplish?
Barbara H. Fried is the William W. and Gertrude H. Saunders Professor of Law. Fried’s scholarly interests lie at the intersection of law, economics, and philosophy. She has written extensively on questions of distributive justice, in the areas of tax policy, property theory and political theory. She is also the author of a path-breaking intellectual biography of Robert Hale, one of the leading legal realists.
Benoît Monin is Professor of Organizational Behavior and Professor of Psychology. Using the methods of experimental social psychology, Monin's research investigates the interplay between self-image and morality. He seeks to understand for instance when individuals behave unethically, and how they live with it; the consequences of high or low moral self-confidence; the meaning and role of morality in everyday life; and what empirical psychology can contribute to ethics.
Tamar Schapiro is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. Her research interests include the nature of passion and inclination and its role in practical reasoning, the structure of agency, the role of ideal concepts in moral theory, and the Kantian nonideal theory.
Stanford University requires every undergraduate to take a class that deals with ethics. But can something as personal as ethics be taught in a classroom? Can classes in ethics make students more virtuous individuals? Or is that the wrong question to focus on?