I regularly teach introductory courses on normative ethics, political philosophy, and bioethics. In the spring of 2021, I gave a course on the ethical issues of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I like to teach ethics using classical science fiction short stories. Here are some I found useful. If you have any recommendations, let me know!
- “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin is probably the best-known philosophical sci-fi short story and it’s often used to illustrate the main objection to consequentialism. But once you find out what Kant would have said about the story, you realize consequentialists are not the only ones that have a problem.
- “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin needs to be changed only slightly – by assuming that the EDS can return to Stardust with Marilyn, leaving the people on the planet to die – to make it an illustration of the numbers problem and the ethics of saving lives.
- “Liar!” by Isaac Asimov is perfect for asking students: if Herbie could be fixed, what sort of “moral module” would you add to his positronic brain? Would you make him a utilitarian? A Kantian? Virtue ethicist? Or perhaps a contractualist? Which is the best ethical theory?