Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Philosophy 298. Experimental Courses


Is it possible to be friends with your dog? Can the wicked be friends? How do friendships differ from kinship bonds? Do friends have duties to each other that they do not have to others? In this course we will explore the nature of friendship and its relation to other social bonds. Our focus will be primarily on philosophical discussions of friendship, but we will also consider sociological analyses, friendship as depicted in art and film, and legal issues pertaining to the friendship bond. Our explorations will include both Western and non-Western perspectives and will span several historical periods.


The Ethics of Politics and Capitalism

This course explores the philosophical basis and moral implications of contemporary capitalism. A central premise is that the causes and solutions to many of humanity’s most significant ethical challenges derive from our economic institutions: how we labor, what we consume, how we delineate markets, what roles we impose on our corporations, etc. This course examines the sources and motivations of our economic institutions and their impact on human welfare at the level of the individual and the state. Since economic institutions involve and impact so many spheres of human life, this course will incorporate a wide range of scholarship in moral and political philosophy, history, economics, and psychology. Along the way, we will consider the benefits and limits of free markets, the role of business in society, the relationship between capitalism and democracy, the ethics of consumption, among other issues at the intersection of economics and philosophy. The subject matter is both academic and practical: the hope is that by understanding the sources and motivations of our economic institutions, we will be in a better position to critically assess them, and thus become more reflective and responsible citizens, business leaders, and consumers.


Unacceptable Conclusions: Arguments Against Common Sense

Consider three claims:
(1) Plants obtain energy from sunlight.
(2) The earth will remain in orbit tomorrow.
(3) Hurting people for fun is morally wrong.

Probably, we take these claims to be objectively true. And probably, we take ourselves to know them to be true. According to both the relativist and the skeptic, we are wrong.

The relativist holds that there is no such thing as objective truth. The skeptic admits taht there may be objective truth but thinks that we lack knowledge of it.

This course introduces students to these two most fundamental challenges to views widely taken to be core tenets of 'common sense. We will first consider the challenges in their most general forms and then examine domain-specific challenges, with special regard to the domains of science and morality.