Why Take Ethics Classes?

"An ethics class will not give you all the answers to moral questions–many answers don’t exist–but should give you frameworks by which to make ethical decisions on a case-by-case basis in the future. When should a company be transparent with its consumers, and when can they ethically hide internal information? How much should technology imitate human behavior? Should neuroimaging be used in courts of law? Such questions are not black and white, but determining boundaries and grey areas will help us all to address these issues consciously and systemically." ~ Avery Rogers, Class of '22

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Honors Program

Journal Research Based on Ethics in Society Honors Thesis

The thesis  was written by Camila Strassle, a member of the 2017-18 honors cohort, and revised into the article, "Workplace Wellness Programs: Empirical Doubt, Legal Ambiguity, and Conceptual Confusion." The resulting paper, co-authored by her colleague at the National Institutes of Health, Benjamin Berkman, appeared in the William & Mary Law Review. Read the abstract.

image of honors students with advisor
Photography by: Christine Baker

The Honors Program in Ethics in Society offers students in any major the opportunity to write a senior honors thesis on a topic that applies moral and political philosophy to a contemporary practical problem.

Because most social issues cannot be resolved through empirical research or technological innovation alone, the Program exists to foster disciplined engagement with the fundamental human values at stake in public and private life. To this end, students are encouraged to research and consult normative frameworks, and ask decidedly normative questions, when pursuing their research. Normative inquiry requires students to move beyond simply describing a social problem -- its causes, its history, or its context, important as they are. Instead, students must take a stand on what ought or should be the case, while developing a sustained argument with compelling moral reasons for their position. 

Students have written theses on topics such as the ethical implications of genetic engineering, the right to privacy in the information age, the just distribution of health care, the nature of gender equality, and more. 

Students come from all majors on campus, including Computer Science, Human Biology, International Relations, and others, and have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars, winners of Marshall and Fulbright fellowships, and leaders in public life.