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Ethics of Sociability (PH366)

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Piglet?’

‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’
(The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne)

Being sure of each other – being socially connected – is fundamentally important to us. There is a growing body of evidence in psychology and neuroscience that we human beings are deeply social creatures who need to live near and with each other in order to survive and flourish.

This module will explore the ethics and politics of being social. It will examine key issues of sociability under three main headings:1) social rights, 2) social virtues, and 3) social policies. You'll consider such questions as:

• What social human rights, if any, do we have?
• Do children have a right to be loved?
• Do we have a right to associate or not with whom we please?
• Is it morally wrong for someone to suffer chronic, acute, unwanted loneliness?
• Is it virtuous to be sociable?
• Can we exercise autonomy without other people?
• What ethical issues are raised by institutional segregation such as medical quarantine, isolated dentention, and solitary confinement?
• Could we defensibly replace social contact with robots and virtual worlds?

The module will draw on debates in various branches of moral and political philosophy, and will examine key contemporary articles on the social aspects of being human.

Module Director

David Woods


This module is worth 15 CATS.