Altruism and the Ethics of Giving


Fall 2016

Mondays, 6:20 - 7:35 pm, Keohane 4B 402 Sem

Why is it important to give to others? Is it morally obligatory, or an action "above and beyond" what morality requires? And how should we even understand giving? Is it an expression of evolutionary urges? Is it he triumph of self-sacrifice over rationality? What should we give, and how much? In its extreme forms, some people give away all of their possessions, their time, sometimes even their health and lives: is it a sign of sainthood or mental illness?

We will approach these and other questions as we consider the morality, rationality, and practicality of giving and altruism. The course will proceed philosophically through careful discussion of arguments about giving and related issues. Students will engage in the discussion and write one paper assessing an argument and another making an argument of their own, both of which will asses and build on philosophical and practical positions around giving.

  • Jesse Summers, Kenan Institute for Ethics,
  • Jesse Summers, Kenan Institute for Ethics