In November, the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics (GISME) hosted a seminar titled “Ethics Across the Curriculum.” Fourteen graduate students from Georgetown University and other universities across the United States and Canada were recruited from a variety of disciplines, including political science, economics, history, business, and philosophy, to discuss the relationship between their area of study and normative thinking.
“The seminar asked, can you work as an economist, a political scientist, business management professor, anything, without a normative framework?” said Michael Douma, the director of GISME. “Are you simply just describing, or do you have a background of normative questions that you're thinking about? Questions that influence the way that you write, what you plan to research, and where to go next.”
The students participated in six sessions, each of which focused on a particular area of study and featured various articles selected by Douma. The specific disciplines were chosen because of their inherent relationship to the study of markets.
The seminar sought to promote communication between disciplines and understanding of different methods used when approaching ethics. Students became increasingly aware of the relationship between ethics and their respective area of study, as well as the disciplines of others.
“The candid discussion and intelligent exchange of ideas allowed me to think more deeply about how ethics and normative thinking are incorporated into my research and studies,” said Benjamin Gibbs, a historian and business student from the University of Dallas. “The variety of disciplines represented also facilitated discourse as to how my department's study of ethics is informed by other disciplines and how we can communicate across departments."
The students determined that although it may be possible to conduct research without thinking about ethics, the research would be bland.
“The major realization I came away with from the seminar was just how inescapable normative thinking is in work across the humanities and social sciences,” said Ben Woodfinden, a Carleton University graduate student in political philosophy. “Being aware of the normative foundations and presuppositions inherent in virtually all scholarship and research helps us better critically evaluate our own work and research, as well as the work of others."
By hosting “Ethics Across the Curriculum,” GISME helped to fulfill the mission of the McDonough School of Business to create principled leaders.
“If we want to create principled leaders, we can’t just tell people to be good. We have to put them through situations and they need to think about various problems,” Douma said.
The seminar was successful in both promoting awareness of philosophical ethics across a variety of disciplines and increasing GISME’s profile.
“The conference was a fruitful opportunity to discuss the nature and importance of ethical practice and ethical theory with non-specialists across a large breadth of academic disciplines,” said Gordon Shannon, a Princeton University Ph.D. candidate in philosophy.