DC Courses

George Washington University

Justice and Peace Studies

Animals, Commodity, and Human Culture

Ed Ingebretsen

This course examines the interactions between and among humans and animals in commodity culture. We encounter animals daily, although likely we pay little attention to, or don’t recognize, these encounters. Each week we will review these practices of engagement between human and non-human animals. We eat animals, we wear them. We test our beauty, health and home products on them. Animals perform for us and satisfy our need for intimacy, as well as novelty. Human agency and indifference removes animals from their natural lives, and displays them for a variety of human pleasures. But in what sense can we say that we own them? Western culture– and its mix of theologies generally — positions animals as subservient to humans; post-colonial rhetoric subjugates their bodies in the same discursive frame that gave Harriet Beecher Stowe the sub-title for Uncle Tom’s Cabin: “The Man Who was a Thing.” These cultural questions will have specific ethical, political, and practical consequences. The course is practical as well as political: Participants will be encouraged to see how their lives daily intersect with animals in terms of the fashions we wear, the foods we eat, the places we shop, the commodities we buy and how we choose our entertainments, and the pets we “keep.” Ultimately our questions are those of ethics and justice. Students will also be responsible for practicum work with an animal-agency of their own choosing.


Ethics: Theory and Applications

David D. DeGrazia

This course is an introduction to ethical theory, methods of ethical reasoning, and several concrete moral problems, including ethics and animals. It is based on the assumption that critical ethical reflection and open-minded engagement with diverse viewpoints can improve the quality of moral judgment. Students are expected to identify and rigorously examine their own moral presuppositions and take responsibility for developing a body of ethical reflection that withstands critical scrutiny.


Moral Status and Personal Identity

David D. DeGrazia

This course integrates the important and challenging philosophical issues of moral status and personal identity, taking advantage of significant recent developments in the literature, and bringing the treatment of these issues to bear in investigating four areas of practical concern: the definition of death; the authority of advance directives in cases of severe dementia and persistent vegetative states; genetic engineering and cloning; and “cosmetic psychopharmacology.” The first part of the course, focusing on moral status, places a strong emphasis on animals.

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