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Northwestern University

Area V: Ethics & Values

NOTE: Students who start taking classes at Northwestern after Spring 2023 should refer to the FD-EET: Ethical and Evaluative Thinking page. The information below pertains to students who started at Northwestern Spring 2023 or earlier.

This area introduces you to the analysis of values, to ways of addressing ethical problems and choices, and to systems of thought or religion that affect value judgments. Courses examine the foundations upon which such systems are constructed and the processes through which judgments are made. They examine ethical questions in different contexts (religious, biomedical, environmental, etc), and/or value systems, both secular and religious, that guide human behavior. Courses may also address the dynamics of ethical change in a society (e.g., why the separation of races may be acceptable to one generation but problematic to another). They may be organized historically or analytically, but all place problems in a context that has a widespread cultural impact.

Why take courses on ethics and values?

Courses in ethics and values do not teach morality; however, they do teach how societies express morals and norms. They introduce students to the most significant types of human value systems and/or ethical decision making and examine ways in which such systems develop, spread, and change. Given the centrality of moral and ethical values to human conduct, a deeper understanding of their bases and potential consequences is critical.

Choosing courses

Review the list of approved courses in ethics and values. Many are in religion or philosophy, and many come from outside those disciplines. Their focus and organization vary, but all address important issues involving ethics and values in a context with broad social relevance.

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