to pass a law, you have to know a little bit about the relevant history, a little bit about the background psychology, a little bit about the culture you’re dealing with and sometimes a little bit about the relevant science,” Cullison says. “There’s going to be a little philosophical reasoning involved about what sorts of things you ought to value. When there are competing values, how do you go about ranking them?”
education and research really serves the first goal, which is providing an excellent education for DePauw students.” The debate about whether you can make someone behave morally just by teaching them is one that dates back as far as Plato. The classical thinker, a key figure in the development of Western philosophy, believed that if you teach someone what is good, that person will naturally want to do
“No other liberal arts college has anything that comes close to what we have here, which is odd because ethics is perhaps one of the most interdisciplinary kinds of study that you can embark on.” – ANDY CULLISON, director of The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics
WHAT PLATO THOUGHT
The Institute’s primary goal is to transform DePauw students into thought leaders. “We want to prepare students to be thought leaders in the sense that they have the capacity to be the ones in the room who can identify the ethical issue that other people might miss,” Cullison says. “And once they’ve identified that ethical issue, we want them to be the sort of persons who can lead a thoughtful, reasoned, intelligent discussion about that issue.” It’s also a goal to establish the Prindle Institute as a nationally recognized institute in ethics education and research, bringing leading thinkers to talk about ethical issues. The advantage of doing that, Cullison explains, is that “the goal of being a nationally recognized center of ethics
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what is good. And when a person doesn’t do what is good, it’s because the person doesn’t know what is good. Cullison doesn’t adhere to that argument entirely, but he does believe it is a good question to consider. “One thing that’s interesting about ethics education and cultivating a capacity for ethical awareness,” he says, “is in order to reason through an ethical issue, one of the things you need to start understanding is how it might affect other people.” How does the issue affect people outside your own circle of friends, outside your own community? Those questions are particularly relevant at a liberal arts college like DePauw, which has long been a leader in preparing and encouraging students to study abroad, participate in Winter Term projects and internships off campus, and be involved in community service.
“History is filled with examples where people change their moral opinions about things with respect to other groups when they just get to know those other groups,” Cullison says. As he leads the Prindle Institute for Ethics in expanding its programs for students and broadening the discussion of ethics on a national level, it becomes clear that an important purpose of ethics education is to cultivate students’ and others’ ability to understand and appreciate what it’s like to be someone else in a situation different than their own – whether it’s in person or online.
Jon Fortt, Andrew Cullison and the Prindle Institute, and the School of Music's Recital Hour