Jump to: Fall 2015 Graduate Courses
101-1: Introduction to Philosophy
The goal of this class is to teach you how to think critically about fundamental issues. The issues we will discuss concern the justification for our claims to knowledge, the distinction between believing something for a reason and believing something on faith, the nature of mind and the possibility of free will and moral responsibility, and, finally, topics in political and ethical theory, including justice and euthanasia. Assignments include short papers and two exams. Class attendance is mandatory.
101-2: Introduction to Philosophy
This course is an introduction to philosophical questioning and the Western philosophical tradition. Through reading classical and contemporary texts, we will be examining central topics in this tradition: proofs for the existence of God, the meaning of life, the nature of art and beauty, and the nature of morality. By exploring these topics and works, students will develop a conception of what philosophy is, become familiar with its history, and acquire the skills needed to identify, evaluate, and construct arguments. In so doing, they will be laying the foundations for a fruitful engagement with philosophy and for critical thinking generally.
101-3: Introduction to Philosophy
The aim of this course is to introduce the student to philosophy, both the subject matter and the method. We will study some different areas in philosophy and the problems and questions addressed in those areas. But we will also study how philosophers go about answering these questions – what kinds of arguments they give, what reasons led them to their views. We will evaluate whether their arguments are good ones, and try to understand what work needs to be done to build adequate theories. The different areas of philosophy we will study include the following : Epistemology or the theory of knowledge which is concerned with questions about the nature and extent of Knowledge; Philosophy of Religion, where we will examine arguments for and against the existence of God; Ethics, where the focus will be on whether there really is such a thing as right or wrong, and if so, what makes something right or wrong; and finally, Free Will, where we will examine whether human beings can have free will if their actions are a part of the natural, causal order.
101-4: Introduction to Philosophy
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104-1: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Goodness, Happiness and the Meaning of Life)
(Open only to FIG Students)
In one of Plato’s early dialogues, the Apology, the seventy-year old Socrates stands before the Athenian jury that is about to condemn him to death and defends the life he has led. In one of the most famous sayings in the history of philosophy, he tells his judges, who were annoyed by his constantly questioning the values and beliefs of his fellow citizens, that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. But what exactly is it to lead an “examined life”? What are the things that are supposed to be “examined” in such a life, and how are we supposed to examine them? And how do you know whether or not you are, in fact, leading an examined life?
In this FIG seminar, we will look closely at what Socrates had in mind—and, more generally, at what philosophy is all about and the different ways of investigating the values that can inform a person’s life. There is no better way to do this than by studying some of history’s greatest philosophers as they inquire into the nature of goodness and happiness, and especially the relationship between the two. What is it to be good or to lead a good life? (Correlatively, what is evil?) What is a right action and what makes it right? What is happiness? Does being a good person insure that your life will be a happy one? We will read selections from ancient, modern and contemporary philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Seneca, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bernard Williams, and others.
104-2: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Food Ethics)
(Open only to FIG Students)
We will begin with a brief survey of various ethical theories regarding what morality is and how we can determine what sorts of things are moral or immoral. With these theories in hand, we will begin to consider a variety of moral issues related to food, including: animal rights and whether we ought to be vegetarians; what we ought to do about population growth and increases in human consumption; whether we have a moral obligation to feed those who cannot feed themselves; whether there are moral implications of eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs); what should be done to make food production and transportation less harmful to organisms and the environment; and how we can better handle waste related to food.
104-3: Special Topics in Philosophy-Freshman (Facing Death)
(Open only to FIG Students)
Death is something that we will all inevitably face, and yet it is not obvious what sort of thing death is and what attitude it is appropriate to have towards it. In this class, we will examine the topic of death primarily through reading philosophical texts from Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as Ancient China and India, alongside modern reflections on death in philosophy and literature. Philosophical questions will include: Is death always bad, and if so, what makes it bad? Is it rational to fear death? Would immortality be preferable? Is there such a thing as an afterlife, or is death the end of our existence? Can things that happen after we die affect us? Does death give meaning to life, or rob it of meaning?
141: The Meaning Life
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210-1: Reason in Communication
This course is about critical thinking. Some forms of reasoning are more persuasive than others, but many persuasive forms of reasoning are fallacious. We will critically examine various patterns of reasoning (arguments) commonly used in newspaper editorials, political speeches, classrooms, courtrooms, and advertisements with the aim of discerning the difference between good and bad reasoning. This skill in critical thinking may also improve your argumentative writing. This is not a course in formal, or symbolic logic like 211 although there will be some very elementary symbolic logic. We will also look at simple patterns of causal and statistical reasoning towards the end of the course.
210-101: Reason in Communication
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211-1: Elementary Logic
A hotel manager put up a sign reading: “No one is permitted on these premises unless accompanied by a registered guest”. Apparently the manager failed to realize that from the statement on the sign it follows that no unaccompanied registered guest is permitted on the premises! In general, the question of which statements follow from other statements is quite tricky. This course addresses this tricky question by (1) introducing a symbolic language into which one can translate a great many ordinary English sentences and almost all mathematical sentences, and by (2) using an automated proof procedure to show that certain sentences follow from other sentences.
211-2: Elementary Logic
This course is an introduction to formal logic, the study of valid reasoning. We will studymethods for proving that an argument is either valid or invalid. Validity, as we will understand it, depends on the form of arguments rather than on their content; we will therefore work with a formal, symbolic language in which the form of sentences is made explicit. We will study both truth–functional and quantificational logic and use a deductive proof procedure for each.
220: Philosophy and the Sciences
This is a first course in philosophy of science, aimed at undergraduates who are interested in science. There are no prerequisites. The course helps fulfill Humanities and Social Science distribution requirements. The goal of the course is to understand what makes science tick. The course is divided into four sections. The first concerns the ABCs of deductive logic and probability reasoning. The second addresses the question “what is science?” as it pertains to the on-going conflict between evolutionary biology and creationism/intelligent design. The third involves a survey of some standard topics in philosophy of science – the justification of induction, the nature of explanation, the question of whether scientific evidence ever supports claims about unobservable entities, and the difference between normal scientific change and scientific revolutions. The fourth topic concerns the role of ethical and political values in scientific practice.
241-1: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
In everyday life, we make a variety of ethical judgments, for example, that it is kind to help others or that it is right to keep promises. What justifies us in making such judgments, can such judgments be objective, and why and how should we live up to them? To answer these questions we shall examine various representative moral theories including Utilitarianism, Kantian Theory and Virtue Ethics, and we shall also consider the views of human nature that underlie them. The main readings for the course will be recognized classics from the history of ethics. However we shall also be considering these in the light of contemporary philosophical developments and concerns, including those of African American philosophers and feminist thinkers.
241-2: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
This course introduces students to ethical theory through key works by four of the most influential philosophers in the history of moral philosophy: John Stuart Mill (19thC), Immanuel Kant (18th C.), Aristotle (4th C. BCE), and Nietzsche (19th C.) with brief selections from such lesser lights as Jeremy Bentham and Bishop Joseph Butler and some contemporary reflections from feminist and African American philosophers. Questions addressed by these writers range from “What is the good life?” and “What is the difference between right and wrong?” to “Is everyone basically selfish?” and “What is the importance of ethics, anyhow?” Course objectives are to offer a solid foundation in ethical theory for students who may wish to do further work in this or a related area and to develop skills in ethical reasoning for everyone who takes the course. No prior philosophy is presupposed. There will be three bluebook essay exams (review questions distributed in advance).
241-3: Introductory Ethics (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
No Description Available.
243-1: Ethics in Business
Profit-seeking business as we now know it came into existence after centuries of moral thinking which looked askance at any activity which is aimed solely at material gain. It is not surprising that some people think that most business activity is somewhat shady, while others think that business takes place in a peculiar world of its own where distinctions between right and wrong can have no meaning at all. In this course we will rethink our moral assumptions and apply them to business as it is actually done. We will discuss the moral legitimacy of corporate enterprise, the moral arguments for various sorts of business regulation, and some of the difficult decisions which people in business must sometimes face. Readings for the course illustrate and clarify the issues covered in the course. Course requirements will include two written essays and a final exam.
304-1 Topic in Philosophy (Love, Sex, Friendship & Partiality)
Love, sex, and friendship are at the center of what makes most people’s lives meaningful for them. We shall consider how to define love, what kinds of love are good, and whether love can sometimes be bad. We will examine how to define sex, the distinction between normal from abnormal sex, sexual identity, sexual exploitation and objectification, sexual consent, and the relationship between sex and the meaning of life. We shall ask whether sex is only good when accompanied by love, and whether it is always good when accompanied by love; and also what kinds of sexual relationship are morally permissible, and what kinds are not. We shall look at what a good friendship is, and what obligations friends have, both toward one another and toward those not in the friendship. We shall also consider the love that parents and children do and should have for one another, and the duties that hold in that relationship. Most of the readings will be philosophical, but we shall also read some history, sociology, and fiction.
304-2 Topic in Philosophy (Values, Justice & Education)
As a society we decide to subject children to around 18000 hours of schooling; and schools determine to a large extent both what sort of educational experiences children will have and what how those experiences will be distributed.
This course will ask what kinds of experience children in our society should have in schools, and how those experiences should be distributed. For the first half of the course we shall read the best philosophical literature in these two debates: asking what knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions society should be using education to develop in children, and asking to what extent, if at all, social resources should be allocated to offset background disadvantages; and we shall also read as much empirical literature as is needed to get a good working understanding of the structure of the US schooling system.
The second half of the course will focus on a series of case studies, looking at specific choices that arise in real time for educational decisionmakers. These case studies have been developed by a team of educators and philosophers in the US, and include decisions about discipline, special educational provision, school district decisions about how to allocate children to schools, and decisions about whether to grant charters to charter schools. We’ll explore the cases together, and will interview educators and administrators about their views about the cases.
Here’s what one new teacher said about the one of the cases we’ll be considering: “I wish they would give us more readings like those in my school of education, they are much more realistic than most of the readings we do, which are more idealistic… Actually I think that tension is something I struggled with a lot throughout the program-but didn’t fully understand why it was so frustrating to me. In my practicum I would see my teachers facing problems like this one-and the other behavior case every day-multiple times a day. Then in our content classes these very real problems were almost watered down, and approached in terms of ideal theory. We talked about the benefits of all-inclusive classes, being preventative, and reflecting in action. But we never really had conversations about how this looks in imperfect practice”
This class will equip you better to understand, scrutinize, and even to make, difficult moral decisions about education, under time pressure, and with imperfect information.
341-1: Contemporary Moral Issues
The course will address four contemporary moral issues: surrogate motherhood, abortion, income and wealth inequalities, and health care. In order to treat the issues systematically, it will also provide a brief introduction to Kant’s moral philosophy, libertarianism, utilitarianism, and Rawls’ theory of justice. This is a writing intensive lecture (but it does not provide comm-B credit), and it aims to help students to analyze, criticize, and present arguments rigorous in clear and precise prose.
341-101: Contemporary Moral Issues
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341-102: Contemporary Moral Issues
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Lec. 91 9:55 MTWR
Lec. 92 11:00 MTWR
Lec. 93 12:05 MTWR
Lec. 94 9:55 MTWR
430: History of Ancient Philosophy
In this course, we will examine how ancient Greek philosophers approached fundamental questions about knowledge and reality. What is the nature and origin of the world? Did it come to be by chance, intelligence or some other cause? How do the senses and reason contribute to our understanding of the world? Is it possible to be certain about anything at all? What is the connection between language and reality? We will focus on Plato and Aristotle, but we will also study some of their philosophical predecessors, such as Parmenides and Heraclitus, as well as the post-Aristotelian philosopher Epicurus.
432: History of Modern Philosophy
This course offers a systematic study of some of the most influential figures in the history of philosophy, focusing on the early modern period — spanning, roughly, from the 1630’s to the end of the 18th century. We will read and discuss the major writings of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume (and others as time permits). Topics include (for example) the possibility of knowledge, the origins of ideas, the relation between mind and body, the nature of causation, and proofs for God’s existence.
464: Classical Philosophers (German Philosophy & Literature 1790-1815)
The end of the 18th century in Europe was a time of political and philosophical upheaval: philosophers had to contend with the political chaos of the French Revolution; politicians drew on literature and philosophy to struggle with questions of the best form of government, the education of citizens, and the role of religion in the state; poets studied philosophy, and philosophers considered rebellion. The texts we will read in this seminar come from this turbulent era and blend philosophy and literature as never before or since. We will read authors from both the philosophical and literary traditions who struggle with questions of how to live as an individual and as a citizen, how to define or create beauty in a chaotic world, and what human subjects can hope to attain. Readings will include selections by Kant, Fichte, Hölderlin, Novalis, Goethe, Hegel and others.
504: Special Topics: Theory of Knowledge (Bayesian Epistemology) (fulfills the category A requirement for the major)
Traditional epistemology considers all-or-nothing beliefs: you either believe that it’s going to rain today or you don’t. Bayesian epistemology supposes that individuals assign degrees of belief to propositions: you might be less confident that it will rain, or more confident without being entirely certain. These degrees of belief can be represented by numbers (I’m 70% confident it will rain today), and then subjected to mathematical constraints (if I’m 70% confident that it will rain today, I should be 30% confident that it won’t). We will consider what degrees of belief are, how they relate to actions, what rational constraints on degrees of belief Bayesians propose, and why we should believe those constraints are rationally required. We will then apply Bayesian epistemology to better understand inductive reasoning, confirmation of hypotheses by evidence, and various puzzles and paradoxes. (Assignments include regular problem sets with both mathematical and philosophical questions, and a final paper. Prerequisites are Philosophy 211 or equivalent and a solid ability to work with high school-level algebra.)
505: Justice and Health Care
This course investigates ongoing debates in moral and political philosophy over the nature, source, and shape of social obligations to provide health care coverage to those who lack it. For the first part of the course, our main task is to understand and evaluate the health care-related implications of currently prominent accounts of social and distributive justice. We will then consider the moral implications of health disparities facing traditionally marginalized sub-populations. Finally, we will investigate the nature, justifiability, and methods of health care rationing, which many believe to be an unavoidable requirement of the near-universally shared goal of health care cost containment.
511: Symbolic Logic
This is a course about (not in) first-order logic: although the course starts with a review of first-order logic, the review is at an abstract level and presupposes knowledge of the mechanics of first-order logic (in gods”). The bulk of the course covers the main metalogical results, both positive (namely the soundness, completeness, compactness, and Lowenheim-Skolem theorems) and negative (namely Godel’s two incompleteness theorems). The emphasis is on understanding the results and becoming able to apply them, not in proving them. The course concludes with an examination of some philosophical implications of Godel’s incompleteness theorems.
516: Language and Meaning (fulfills category A requirement for the major)
The course will cover some of the main themes in the philosophy of language. The human ability to communicate information about the external world through language is remarkable and raises a number of philosophical questions. Topics to be considered include: what it is for a linguistic expression to be meaningful; how it could come about that a linguistic expression – which is at some level just an arbitrary group of sounds or symbols – could have a meaning; how both the mind and the external world interact with language to determine meaning; how speakers use and manipulate language in different settings to communicate different kinds of information; and the way in which the meaning of a term depends on context.
520: Philosophy of Natural Sciences
The aim of this course is to address a simple question: What is the difference between good and bad science? We can point to examples of good science, like theories of planetary motion. And we can point to astrology as bad examples of science, to the extent that they count as science at all. However, the task of philosophy of science is more ambitious than agreeing on examples of good and bad science. The aim is to tell the difference between good and bad science in general terms, which apply across many examples of science, in a way that could help us judge examples of new science. Science has produced theories about things we cannot see (like electrons) on the basis of what we do see (like television pictures). Another example is the theory of evolution, which makes assertions about common ancestries based on the fossil record and other observational evidence. Another example is the atomic theory, which is based on observed regularities in the behavior of gases and the results of chemical reactions. Do we have good reason to believe that these theories are true, approximately true, in what they assert to exist, or are they merely accurate in their predictions? Is there an objective way in which we judge the true, approximate truth, or the predictively accuracy of scientific theories? If not, then our faith in science may in many instances depend on prejudice, bias, or even fashion. Perhaps science is like religion—relying more on faith than reason.
524: Philosophy and Economics
There are a great many issues that lie on the boundaries between economics and philosophy. There are questions of scientific methodology: Economics looks a great deal like a natural science, but it apparently does not perform as well. What methods are appropriate to studying the sorts of social phenomena that economics studies? There are questions concerning the nature of rationality, which interest both philosophers and economists developing models of rational choice. There are also many questions concerning ethics and political philosophy that cross the boundaries between the two disciplines: What should be the objectives of economic policy? Do markets require regulation? Are market outcomes just? During the Fall of 2015, Philosophy/Economics 524 will focus on ethical issues concerning economics. The main text for the course will be the draft of the third edition of Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy that will be nearing completion by Daniel Hausman, Michael McPherson and Debra Satz. Requirements will include substantial homework assignments, three quizzes, a term paper, and a final examination.
530: Freedom, Fate and Choice
This is a course on the freedom of the will. We will study the following: classic arguments from fatalism and determinism to the effect that human beings do not have free will; ‘compatibilist’ accounts of the freedom of the will which maintain that we can have free will even if past events and the laws of nature determine what we do; accounts of the freedom of the will which tie it to the agent’s ability to make rational decisions; whether is it possible to give an account of the freedom of the will that can account for all of the cases in which a person intuitively does not do what he does of his own free will— e.g., cases in which the impediment seems internal and psychological, (addiction or phobia) and cases in which the impediment seems external (coercion); do cases of coercion really count as cases in which a person does not do what she does of her own free will. We will study some classical philosophers —Descartes, Locke, Moore— but most of the material will be from more contemporary sources—Van Inwagen, David Lewis, P.F. Strawson, Rogers Albrittion, Gary Watson, Harry Frankfurt and others.
549: Great Moral Philosophers (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
We will discuss the work of several great moral philosophers, for example, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Mill and Kant, and some important contemporary moral philosophers, especially women, who develop or criticize these different approaches to ethics. The aim of the course is to gain a critical appreciation of the insights of each of these philosophers. How much time we spend on each philosopher and on each topic will depend on the interests of the participants in the course.
There will be three tutorials. Class participants will be asked to write a series of 1500-word essays answering specific and challenging questions on assigned texts or particular topics. They will then come in pairs to see Professor Gottlieb for an hour or so, during which time they will read out and discuss their work. Grades will be assigned to the written work. The point of the tutorial is purely educational and fun. The final grade will be based on the grades for the three tutorial papers. Attendance and good participation in class discussion are also expected.
555: Political Philosophy (fulfills category B requirement for the major)
This course will be an examination of the sort of liberalism that traces its lineage back to John Locke. This is a tradition that generally assumes that the basic question for political philosophy is whether the state is an institution that can be justified at all, and generally concludes that the only states that can be justified are ones that recognize limits on their just powers. Thus a just state must guarantee its subjects some measure of freedom. We will begin by spending two or three weeks reading Locke’s Second Treatise and possibly his essay on reforming the “poor laws.” We will then read Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. We will end by reading various critics of Nozick or Locke, including Michael Otsuka and G.A. Cohen. Requirements of the course will include two papers (one about five pages long and the other about ten) and a final exam.
556: Topics: Feminism & Philosophy
I understand “feminism” very broadly as a movement (historically, several movements) to mitigate and ideally end the oppression of women and girls. This course will select topics mainly in ethics and social-political philosophy, to include issues selected from such topics as rape, stalking, domestic violence, same-sex relationship issues, feminist and lesbian separatism, war and military service, as well as more abstract concerns regarding justice and care in feminist ethics. I expect readings to be from selected classics (pre-1950, a few), from the Second Wave (1970s) of feminism, and from more recent materials (emphasis here), with a heavy dose of my own work. My approach is an eclectic combination of radical and liberal feminisms. But I have not yet decided on texts (will do that this summer, so check Student Center from time to time). The course will not be a survey of feminist philosophy and will emphasize issues rather than writers. Written assignments will be mostly short papers (Writing Intensive and with the assistance of Writing Fellows), with a possible mid-term essay exam and the threat of a final exam for those who do not do the required number of papers on time or have a grade average below “BC”.
560: Metaphysics (fulfills category A requirement for the major)
This course will explore foundational questions in metaphysics concerning the nature of concrete objects (such as trees and stars), abstract objects (such as numbers and sets), properties (such as colors and shapes), fictional entities (such as The Simpsons and Sherlock Holmes), and values (such as beauty and justice). Do all or only some of these things exist? Among those that exist, which are “objective” or “independent of us”, and which are “subjective” or somehow “dependent on us”? We will analyze these questions and consider competing answers to them, focusing on debates between realism and various forms of anti-realism.
Readings will consist primarily in classic and contemporary articles by analytic metaphysicians (such as Frege, Russell, Quine, Armstrong, Lewis, and Benacerraf). There will be several writing assignments (a series of expository and argumentative essays).
830: Advanced History of Philosophy (Kant’s Metaphysics and Epistemology)
In this seminar we will attempt to make sense of Kant’s mature theoretical philosophy (that is, his metaphysics and epistemology), the centerpiece of which is the difficult doctrine of transcendental idealism, according to which the objects of human knowledge are mere appearances rather than things-in-themselves. We will be reading a mixture of primary sources for example, selections from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and the Prolegomena) and recent works of Kant interpretation, e.g. James Van Cleve’s Problems from Kant. Topics to be discussed include Kant’s views on the following: the conditions and limits of human cognition; the analytic-synthetic distinction; the respective roles of intuitions/perceptions and concepts; causality; freedom; and the relationship between cognition and knowledge.
902: Proseminar in Philosophy
This seminar for incoming students is required. It provides a background/refresher in central texts in core analytic philosophy across diverse specialties, and a common, and joint entry experience into graduate school. There will be a close reading of texts and an emphasis on writing skills.
903: Seminar: Epistemology
While twentieth-century epistemology witnessed extensive work on knowledge, it largely neglected the phenomenon of understanding — arguably, one of the highest epistemic achievements and a precondition for wisdom. This seminar will investigate the nature, varieties, and growth of understanding.
What kind of mental state is understanding? Is it valuable, and if so why? How is understanding related to knowledge? To explanation? What is theoretical understanding, as paradigmatically exemplified in science? In what ways is scientific understanding similar to, or different from, understanding in other intellectual domains, such as philosophy or mathematics? What about understanding in practical domains — the sort of understanding displayed by a skilled cook, or a carpenter, or a morally wise person? What is it to understand art or music, or another person, or oneself, and how are such feats related to theoretical or practical understanding? What makes one individual’s understanding better or deeper than another’s? How can one improve one’s understanding? Does improvement of understanding occur only along one dimension, or along a variety of dimensions?
These are among the questions we will explore. We will read literature drawn from a variety of philosophical areas: epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, phenomenology, ethics, and philosophy of action.
920: Seminar: Philosophy of Science (Explanation)
In this seminar, we’ll explore some general questions about the nature of explanation and see how they apply to various examples from cognitive science and evolutionary biology. Here are examples of the general questions that the seminar may focus on: Are all explanations of events and states of affairs causal? Must a causal explanation of X describe a “mechanism”? If E explains X, must E show that X was to be expected? If E explains X, must E be evidence for X? How is inference to the best explanation related to Bayesian confirmation theory? What does it take for one generalization to explain another? How do explanations differ from descriptions? The biological examples we’ll examine concern natural selection and common ancestry. The cognitive science examples we’ll examine concern functional organization and dynamical systems.
941: Seminar: Ethics (Moral Status: Theories & Applications)
This course is a graduate-level in-depth study of the concept of moral status and its implications. We will address questions about the conceptual profile of moral status: is it binary or does it admit of degrees; can relational properties influence moral status; is it an essential or accidental property; what work, if any does, moral status do over and above concepts such as interests, harms, and benefits? Then we will look at a selection of theories drawn from the contemporary literature on biocentrism, consciousness theories, sentientist theories, interest theories, and rationality theories. Finally, we will explore some of the implications these theories have for normative ethics and practical ethics discussions about harm and death.