CoursesAdvanced Seminar in Economics: Everyday Altruism
PPE 4900-301

Advanced Seminar in Economics: Everyday Altruism

Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30 pm-4:59 pm

In this course, we will explore altruism as a process and investigate its affective, cognitive, behavioral, social, and ecological components. We will investigate questions such as, what are the causes, conditions, and impediments of altruism? Can altruism be developed within individuals, and if so how? What would an altruistic society look like, and how might it be achieved? As an academically based community service (ABCS) course, students will be paired with and serve at local organization. By the end of the semester, the class will have cooperated with members of the partner organizations to identify and develop feasible projects to improve well-being in the communities they serve.

These questions will be analyzed by considering topics from empathy, compassion, and well-being, generosity, trust, and cooperation, to uncertainty, fear, guilt, and suffering. We will engage with these questions and topics through reading and responding to material from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, and economics, as well as contemplative studies and literature. In addition to conceptual learning, students will be introduced to tools and practices to support the exploration of altruism in their everyday life.

Primary emphasis will be given to dialogue, including introspection and conversations with others, which will be considered as a fundamental activity in the exploration and training of altruistic intentions and actions. As part of the course, students will regularly engage in personal and interpersonal reflections and write analytical essays. Students will complete a final project in which they explore selected course material at a deeper level, apply core concepts from the course to solve social or environmental problems, or create materials and resources that others may use to develop altruism. At the end of the semester, each student will complete a dialogical examination. A foundational theme of this course is a focus on moving in the direction of greater altruism, a shift of balance from preoccupation with the magnitude of progress. By the end of the semester, we will discover how every life experience is an opportunity to take a step in the direction of altruism.

Enrollment is limited to students with a major in Philosophy Politics & Economics and to students with the Penn Classification Junior or Penn Classification Senior attributes.

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