LAW 484B: Aging and Social Justice

In this course, we will examine aging through the lens of moral philosophy. We begin by looking at questions regarding social justice and the elderly: What are the ethical concepts surrounding age discrimination, and what are our moral responsibilities to the elderly? What, if any, are the responsibilities of the elderly to society? Does western culture value elder wisdom, or do the societal burdens of caring for the elderly outweigh the benefits? Next, we explore the question: Who wants to live forever? As anti-aging medical intervention and human enhancement efforts soar, questions about the ethics of immortality become real and relevant. Is living longer living better? What is the value of life? Finally, we visit the topic of euthanasia and end-of-life ethics. Is there a duty to die, or a duty to live as long as possible? Do healthcare providers have an absolute obligation to prolong life regardless of patient suffering? Is non-medical, voluntary euthanasia justifiable? Philosophy demands rigorous conceptual analysis, and so we will focus on what concepts mean. For example: What does it mean to be old? What does social justice mean in the context of an aging population? We will examine arguments that attempt to justify why it is wrong to treat aging as a disease that must be eradicated, and we will defend our own views about the ethics of medical intervention to prolong life. These topics, and much more, will provide us with a journey through the landscape of aging and dying in a moral community.