Courses @ C4E

COVID-19 Notice: Please check Timetable and ACORN for up-to-date information on ETH courses

Graduate

2020-21

ETH1000H1-Y – Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Context (fall & spring)
Tuesday 3-6pm (LA200/online) (synchronous)
This year-long, half-credit graduate course exposes students to advanced methods employed in the analysis of ethical issues related to the production, dissemination, and application of AI in a variety of contexts. A diverse team of speakers from a range of academic disciplines including, for instance, computer science; criminology; engineering; law; literary studies; media studies; philosophy; or political science, will model various methodological approaches and modes of analysis. Students will write three short responses each semester to specific presentations, and participate in group discussions of the scheduled guest lectures.
► More info here


Undergraduate

2020-21

► JUST ADDED ETH350H1-S – Topics in Value Theory: Bias in Medicine: From Evidence Based Medicine to Artificial Intelligence (spring)
Juliette Ferry-Danini (Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Ethics; PhD, Philosophy, Sorbonne)
Monday 10-12 (in-person/synchronous)
This course will bring together the literature on bias in the philosophy of medicine and the philosophy of artificial intelligence. We will explore the different kinds of bias medicine is facing, from general publication bias to more specific gendered and racial discriminations. We will study the impact of bias on standard evidence based medicine and clinical care. Additionally, we will consider what new biases artificial intelligence may or may not bring in medicine and care.

Biases in medicine are unfortunately ubiquitous and impede reliable evidence and efficient medical care. When we take medicine and feel better, we might infer that the medicine has cured us. However, our illness may very well have improved on its own. This is what we call confirmation bias. Of course, medical research has implemented different methodological safeguards over time in order to avoid this type of bias, notably, carefully designed studies. Since the 1990s, “Evidence Based Medicine” refers to the idea that we can rank by quality these different levels of evidence. The methodological safeguards in medical research, however, are not perfect and confirmation bias is not the only bias impacting the reliability of medical evidence and the quality of care. For instance, what we call publication bias favors the publication of positive or striking results over negative results or replications. Moreover, some other biases are directly linked to gender and racial discrimination. This course will explore some of the different biases medical science is facing, what it means for medicine overall and how it impacts society. Finally, the course will consider what impact the introduction of artificial intelligence technologies in medicine may have on these issues: Is artificial intelligence likely to make medicine more reliable or, on the contrary, even more biased?
Readings may include:

  • Robyn Bluhm, 2017, “The Hierarchy of Evidence, Meta-Analysis, And Systematic Review,” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine, ed. Solomon, Simon, Kincaid, Routledge.
  • Alexander Bird, 2019, “Systematicity, knowledge, and bias. How systematicity made clinical medicine a science”, Synthese 196 (3):863-879.
  • Kirstin Borgerson, 2009, “Valuing Evidence: Bias and the Evidence Hierarchy of Evidence-Based Medicine”, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Volume 52, Number 2, Spring 2009, pp. 218-233.
  • Fanelli, Daniele, 2010, “Do Pressures to Publish Increase Scientists’ Bias? An Empirical Support from US States Data”, Enrico Scalas (ed.), PLoS ONE, 5(4): e10271.
  • Maya J. Goldenberg, 2010, “Perspectives on Evidence-Based Healthcare for Women”, Journal of Women’s Health, Jul 2010, 1235-1238.
  • Jeremy Howick, 2019, “Exploring the Asymmetrical Relationship Between the Power of Finance Bias and Evidence”, Perspect Biol Med, 62(1):159-187.
  • Jamila K. Taylor, 2020, “Structural Racism and Maternal Health Among Black Women”, Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 48 (3):506-517.
  • Sean A. Valles, 2017, “Race in Medicine”, in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine, ed. Solomon, Simon, Kincaid, Routledge.

Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

ETH350H1-Y – Topics in Value Theory: Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Context (fall & spring)
Tuesday 3-6pm (synchronous)
The 2020-21 session of this year-long, half-credit course will expose students to advanced methods employed in the analysis of ethical issues related to the production, dissemination, and application of AI in a variety of contexts. A diverse team of speakers from a range of academic disciplines including, for instance, computer science; criminology; engineering; law; literary studies; media studies; philosophy; or political science, will model various methodological approaches and modes of analysis. Students will write three short responses each semester to specific presentations, and participate in group discussions of the scheduled guest lectures. (Note that this is an “H1Y” course — a half-credit course taught throughout both Fall and Winter terms. It meets roughly bi-weekly over the entire academic year.)
Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)
Please note that enrollment in this course is by permission of instructor only. Please contact Ellen Ough (ethics@utoronto.ca) to apply.
► More info here

ETH230H1-S – Morality in Cross-Cultural Perspective (spring)
Tuesday 3-5pm (in-person/synchronous)
Benjamin Davis (Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Ethics; PhD, Philosophy, Emory)

Is morality universal, or does it vary by time and place? This course will examine cultural differences in moral codes from both empirical and philosophical perspectives.

One way of teaching this course is to provide a survey of different ethical traditions. We will take a different path: examining what happens when cultures come into contact by focusing on questions of migration today. Even when nation-states refuse to recognize migrants, there is supposed to be a regime of human rights to which migrants can appeal. Questions of migrants’ rights, especially the rights of refugees, will shape this course. Our readings will allow students to understand—and find a voice in—the most important debates of our time:

  • Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia
  • Steven L.B. Jensen, The Making of International Human Rights
  • Lindsey Stonebridge, Placeless People: Writings, Rights, and Refugees.
  • Jodi Dean, Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging

By the end of the course, students will have a strong understanding of human rights today—as they are used by governments as well as by activists in resistance to those governments.

Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

► JUST ADDED ETH201H1-S – Contemporary Moral Problems (spring)
Wednesday 10-12pm (in-person/synchronous)
Benjamin Davis (Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Ethics; PhD, Philosophy, Emory)
ETH201H1 is an introductory course in ethics. How should we live? Which course of action is the right one? When and why should we blame ourselves and/or others? We all have and exercise moral opinions; this course is about justifying them. The course begins with some critical reasoning skills, and then explores philosophical strategies for justifying moral beliefs. We will then examine some specific issues of moral and political significance before concluding with psychological mechanisms behind moral attitudes and behaviour.

Whenever I teach, students ask me about certain controversial and political books that are usually left off of syllabi. In this course, we will read those books—and we will do so because our moment demands it. We are living in a time of social, political, and environmental crises: a pandemic, needed uprisings demanding racial justice, climate change, and so on. And perhaps ethics is itself in crisis, failing to provide a popular, critical version of ‘the good life’ when one is needed perhaps more than ever. Amidst these crises, colonial patterns still shape the world today. Students often demonstrate an interest in connecting the events they witness in the streets with their studies in the classroom. This class will make that connection. We will focus on contemporary moral problems regarding class, gender, race, and civic status, including the problems of a standard course on contemporary moral issues: reproductive justice, environmental justice, affirmative action, and so on. But we will do so in a non-traditional way: not reading textbooks but by studying some of the most pressing decolonial books of our time:

  • Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
  • Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation
  • Audra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States
  • Glen Coulthard, Red Skins, White Masks: Rejecting The Colonial Politics of Recognition

Linking the Caribbean to Canada in this way, students will be encouraged to make connections across international contexts. Indeed, we will link theory and practice, imaginary and institution, throughout our study. (Do not worry if you have not read these books; we will proceed very slowly.)

Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

ETH401H1-Y – Seminar in Ethics (fall & spring)
Wednesday 11-2 (LA200) (synchronous)
The seminar will expose advanced undergraduates to cutting edge research in ethics. It meets bi-weekly over the entire academic year. Participants will attend research presentations at the Centre for Ethics (topics have included bioethics, indigenous rights, equality and education, free speech, and workplace democracy). They will also meet individually with the instructor (the Centre’s Director) to plan an independent research project related to the theme of the course. In the winter term, students will present their research and discuss it with the other students in the seminar. (Note that this is an “H1Y” course — a half-credit course taught throughout both Fall and Winter terms.)
Prerequisites: One of PHL365H1, PHL375H1, PHL271H1, POL200Y1 or an equivalent, POL330Y1 or an equivalent. Preference for enrollment will be given to students of the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Political Science, and Trinity College’s program in Ethics, Society, and Law.

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Not taught in 2020-21

ETH210H1 – Rationality and Action
An introductory survey of attempts that have been made to develop a formal model of practical rationality, with particular emphasis on the way moral considerations enter into those deliberations. Topics may include: utility-maximization theory, introductory game theory, consequentialism, and deontic reasoning, as well as the limitations of rationality.

ETH220H1 – Moral Psychology
A study of issues that arise at the intersection of psychology and moral philosophy. Why do people act morally? What role do reason and emotion play? Can we know what is right, yet not be motivated to do it? What role can science play in advancing our understanding of morality?