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PUBLPOL 103F: Ethics of Truth in a Post-Truth World (PUBLPOL 203F)

This course will explore changing notions of truth in a world in which technology, global risks, and societal developments are blurring the boundaries of humanity and boring through traditional notions of nation states, institutions, and human identity. We will ask one over-arching question: does truth matter anymore? If so, why and how? If not, why not? Either way, how does truth relate to ethical decision-making by individuals and institutions and to an ethical society? Five themes will organize our exploration of more specific topics: honesty; identity; memory; authenticity and integrity; and religious truth. Examples of topics to be explored include, among others: fake news; President Trump's campaign strategy and presidency; Syrian refugees and the Rohingyas; University history (Rhodes, Georgetown slavery, Yale Calhoun College...); new questions in gender and racial identity; Chinese beautifying app Meitu and other social media "truth modifiers"; the sharing economy; the impact of more »
This course will explore changing notions of truth in a world in which technology, global risks, and societal developments are blurring the boundaries of humanity and boring through traditional notions of nation states, institutions, and human identity. We will ask one over-arching question: does truth matter anymore? If so, why and how? If not, why not? Either way, how does truth relate to ethical decision-making by individuals and institutions and to an ethical society? Five themes will organize our exploration of more specific topics: honesty; identity; memory; authenticity and integrity; and religious truth. Examples of topics to be explored include, among others: fake news; President Trump's campaign strategy and presidency; Syrian refugees and the Rohingyas; University history (Rhodes, Georgetown slavery, Yale Calhoun College...); new questions in gender and racial identity; Chinese beautifying app Meitu and other social media "truth modifiers"; the sharing economy; the impact of compromised truth on history; and Brexit. Scotty McClennan will explore truth through major literary characters and the impact of religion on truth. We will consider how we determine and verify the truth; how we "do" truth; the role of truth in ethical decision-making; the importance of truth to effective ethical policy; and the relationship of the truth to a life well lived. An analytically rigorous short final paper in lieu of exam. This three-credit seminar may be taken as a stand-alone course or may accompany  PUBLPOL 134 Ethics on the Edge. The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduates will not be at a disadvantage. Everyone will be challenged. Distinguished Career Institute Fellows are welcome and should contact Dr. Susan Liautaud directly at susanl1@stanford.edu. Students wishing to take the course who are unable to sign up within the enrollment limit should contact Dr. Susan Liautaud at susanl1@stanford.edu. *Public Policy majors taking the course to complete the core requirements and students taking the course for Ways credit must obtain a letter grade. Other students may take the course for a letter grade or C/NC.
Terms: Spr | Units: 3 | UG Reqs: WAY-ER | Grading: Letter or Credit/No Credit
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