I usually teach courses exploring bioethics, neuroethics, the intersections between health and human rights, and between law and ethics. During the Fall 2012 semester, I am teaching a course on ethical leadership at Penn State (PHIL 119). I am providing a list of some assigned and additional readings from my syllabus here as a resource for other instructors. If you have thoughts on the readings, I urge you to share them with me so that I can refine and improve the course before teaching it again. Please post comments or email suggestions to me. My email address may be found on my contacts page.
Ethical Leadership Syllabus by Jonathan H. Marks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
PHIL 119: ETHICAL LEADERSHIP (FALL 2012)
In the wake of the release of the Freeh Report, there is no more important issue facing the Penn State community than the question of ethical leadership. This course, which provides an introduction to theories of ethics and leadership, will enable us to reflect more deeply and critically upon the current situation at Penn State, and help us develop an understanding of ethical leadership more broadly—in business, politics, and the professions. This course draws on material from the Freeh Report and the Gerald Sandusky trial. It also explores concepts of ethical literacy, moral blindness, wrongful obedience, bystander responsibility, institutional ethics, loyalty and dissent, moral exemplars and integrity. This is an interdisciplinary course that seeks insights from literature, film, biography, history, and new social science research (in particular, from the emerging field of “behavioral ethics”)—as well as philosophical texts.
Structure of the Course
Ordinarily, ethics courses begin by giving students grounding in
ethical theory, and then work through case studies to give students practice
applying ethical theories to practical problems. We begin this course in a different way. We start with a set of ethical questions
raised by recent events at Penn State, and then work through ethical
theories to explore how they might enrich our understanding of these questions,
and how the theories and methods might enable us to better address them. We also draw on literature, film, social
science, history and biography. Although
we apply what we learn throughout the course to recent events at Penn State, we
also explore comparisons with other examples of ethical leadership and failures
thereof. These examples are drawn from a
variety of spheres including business, politics and the professions. At the end of the course, we return to events at Penn State to explore how our understanding has been enriched.
Week 1: The Freeh Report and Ethical Leadership at Penn State
Weeks 2-3: What is Ethics? Moral Literacy, Ethical Theory, and a 'Toolkit'
Week 4: What is Ethical Leadership?
Week 5: On Integrity and Corruption
Week 6: An Introduction to Moral Psychology and Behavioral Ethics
Week 7: Moral Blindness and Contrived Ignorance
Week 8: Bystander Responsibility and Identifiable Victims
Week 9: Ethics and Proximity
Week 10: Role Morality and Wrongful Obedience
Week 11: Of Gods, Demons, and Mortals: The Quest for Moral Exemplars
Week 12: Institutional Ethics and Organizational Perspectives
Week 13: Ethics and Societal Change
Week 14: On Loyalty and Dissent: Whistleblowing and Civil Disobedience
Week 15: Review and Additional Case Studies
Readings on the events at Penn State include:
In addition to numerous news articles and op-eds in the New York Times, the Centre Daily Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education (among others), there are a number of scholarly publications. For a collection of scholarly essays on this topic, please click here.