January 20, 2009

Welcome to the Political Ethics blog

During this semester, we will be reading and talking about some of the most difficult but important questions in political life: Does politics demand "dirty hands" or is it possible to be ethical and political at the same time? How do we reach public policy decisions when people's definitions of what is "right" or "good" are so different? When our aim is to help society or save lives, is it morally justified to use lies, deception or brutality to reach that crucial goal?

This blog is the place for you to give your responses to the authors who will be answering these questions and the case studies we will be reading, and it's also a place for you to provide comments on each other's entries. Our goals will be to 1) examine the readings critically, figure out their key points and arguments and connect them to our lives;2) develop our skills of logical, persuasive argumentation by responding to the readings, either in agreement or disagreement; and 3) keep the group conversation going outside of class by reading, seriously considering and challenging or supporting each other's statements.

This blog is open to a wide range of political and ethical perspectives, including uncertainties and shifts in position. After all, if we all thought alike, our discussion quickly would come to a halt or become boring, so courteous disagreement and challenges are encouraged. At the same time, this is not intended to be an academic version of Facebook or Twitter with no incentive to develop or edit our comments. This blog is far more casual and collective than a traditional college writing assignment but it is an academic exercise nonetheless, and it is one that rewards critical thinking, careful reading, thoughtful argumentation and clear writing. Write freely and write frequently, but think about what you are writing and read it through before clicking on the "save" button.

Let's see what we can make of this blog as we move through the semester. The point is not to reach definitive and final answers but to wrestle with these questions of political ethics, to challenge ourselves and each other. So, let's get it started: What do you think of the Walzer and Calhoun readings?