This course aims to deepen understanding of how moral values underlie public policy debates, and to enhance students’ ability to interrogate their own assumptions about values, by introducing some basic concepts and methods of moral and political philosophy.

We will examine key normative questions in public policy such as: When do legislators, civil servants, and citizens have special duties to others because of their roles, and when should they act on their private moral judgments? What ethical assumptions are made by widely-used methods of policy analysis, and how should we think about these? Can states legitimately control speech? Can states legitimately control borders between citizens and potential immigrants? How can we reasonably respond to moral disagreement and religious diversity in a pluralistic state?

Answering such questions involves making difficult value judgments. Through debate and discussion of a number of moral dilemmas faced by governments and public, we will discover how analytic moral reasoning can help us examine, adjust, and better defend the moral and political frameworks that ground our policy decisions – though it leaves us with seemingly fewer clear, final answers than before we encountered it.