Course Details

Title Global Ethics
Field of Study International Studies
Professor hanyang (
Type Academic course
Delivery Method Offline (100% offline course):
Credits 3
Contact hours 45
Course code DIS1018
Course number

Recent economic and technological developments have given rise to the world’s first global civilization, with problems or challenges that are truly global in scope, such as climate change, global pandemics, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, global poverty, overpopulation, air and water pollution, species extinction, resource depletion, global migration, and international terrorism. It is often thought that the solutions to these problems must come from government policies, international treaties, and/or corporate initiatives. However, what is overlooked from this perspective are the ways in which individuals, especially citizens of affluent countries, are implicated in these problems. And yet it is becoming increasingly clear that the lifestyle choices and patterns of consumption of citizens in affluent countries are at the root of many of the global challenges of the 21st century.
These connections give rise to a host of interesting and important ethical questions. For instance, if we could reduce the likelihood of catastrophic climate change by making simple changes to what we eat, should we do it? And if we could help to solve the problems of global poverty and famine as well as resource depletion in part by reducing the amount we as individuals spend on unnecessary luxury goods, should we do it? More generally, what sort of lives should we live in the 21st century as environmental destruction and technological developments threaten the existence of the human species, as well as most other animal species. If human civilization is headed toward irreversible collapse, as some writers believe, does it matter how we as individuals choose to live our lives? These are some of the questions examined in Global Ethics. The course provides an introduction to ethical thinking and ethical theory, an overview of several ethical issues as well as some of the main challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, an understanding of how we as individuals are implicated in these problems, and a theoretical
perspective from which to answer questions concerning how we should respond to them. The course consists of lectures and group discussions on a wide range of issues related to the fundamental ethical question of how we as individuals should live our lives in the 21st century.


This course has several objectives. First, the course aims to promote a greater understanding of some of the main problems confronting humanity in the 21st century as well as the ways in which we as individuals are implicated in these problems. The specific problems addressed include climate change, global poverty and famine, overpopulation, economic inequality, species inequality, gender inequality, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. Second, this course provides an introduction to ethical thinking and ethical theory. Students will acquire a better understanding of what ethical issues are and learn several different perspectives from which they can be examined. In particular, students will be introduced to the ethical theories of libertarianism, utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, and Rawlsian egalitarianism. Third, this course will examine the aforementioned global problems from these various theoretical perspectives in an attempt to determine the best ways to think through them and to answer the question of how we as individuals should respond to them. Fourth, through classroom discussions and debates, students will exercise and strengthen their critical thinking skills. Finally, as all presentations, assignments, and classroom discussions will be conducted in English, the course also provides an English-language academic environment in which students can improve their command of the English language.


This course has been designed specifically to provide students with sufficient opportunities for group-based and project-based learning. Most classes will be divided between lectures and group discussions. Working in groups, students will discuss the ethical issues introduced in each week’s lecture and attempt to resolve specific questions that have been assigned in advance. Additionally, near the beginning of the course each student will select one topic of special interest from a list approved by the instructor and carry out in-depth research into that topic as part of a group. The results of that research will be written up in the form of a report, which is to be submitted near the end of the course. Further details on the group discussions and research projects will be provided in class.

The reading material for this course will come from a variety of sources and will include selections from the books listed below:
1. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?
Michael Sandel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2010
2. Practical Ethics
Peter Singer
Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition; 1999
3. Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Bill McKibben
Henry Holt, 2019
4. The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically
Peter Singer
Yale; 2015
Other reading or video material used in this course will be announced in class and in most cases will be available online.

Lesson Plan
Class 1: Course overview / introduction to ethical reasoning
Class 2: Ethical theory 1: utilitarianism / libertarianism
Class 3: Ethical theory 2: Kantian deontology / virtue ethics
Class 4: Ethical theory 3: Rawlsian egalitarianism
Class 5: Bioethics 1: abortion / assisted dying
Class 6: Bioethics 2: surrogate pregnancy / genetic engineering
Class 7: Equality and rights 1: racial and gender inequality
Class 8: Equality and rights 2: species inequality and animal rights
Class 9: Equality and rights 3: artificial intelligence and robot rights
Class 10: Global problems 1: climate change
Class 11: Global problems 2: population and migration
Class 12: Global problems 3: global poverty and famine
Class 13: Effective altruism / individual responsibilities
Class 14: Discussion and analysis of research reports
Class 15: Course summary / final exam
Last Updated October 29, 2021
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