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This archived information is dated to the 2010-11 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Honors in Ethics in Society

The Program in Ethics in Society offers undergraduates the opportunity to write a senior honors thesis within a community of interdisciplinary scholars. The course of study combines the analytical rigor of moral and political philosophy with the subject matter of each student's self-chosen major to develop a sophisticated understanding of problems of social concern. Such problems include: the nature and implications of treating people with equal dignity and respect; the scope of liberty; the legitimacy of government; and the meaning of responsibility. The program poses these issues and others in the context of debates which arise in our common public life. It thus extends moral concern and reflection across disciplines such as medicine, law, economics, political science, sociology, international relations, and public policy.

Students in the program write honors theses on topics which use moral and political philosophy to address practical problems. Previous theses have considered such questions as the just distribution of health care, obligations to future generations, the role of moral values in education, the moral implications of genetic engineering, and the relationship between gender inequality and the structures of work and family. Students in the program have won scholarships to graduate study including Marshall, Rhodes, and Fulbright fellowships. Others have taken the step from moral analysis to moral commitment, pursuing careers of public service.

The honors program in Ethics in Society is open to majors in every field and must be taken in addition to a department major. Students should apply for entry at the end of Spring Quarter of the sophomore year or at the beginning of Autumn Quarter of the junior year. Applicants should have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 (B+) or higher. They should also maintain this minimum average in the courses taken to satisfy the requirements. Required courses must be taken for a letter grade. Students interested in pursuing honors in Ethics in Society should contact the program coordinator for more information and to begin the application process.


  1. ETHICSOC 20. Introduction to Moral Theory (same as PHIL 20); or ETHICSOC 170. Ethical Theory (same as PHIL 170)
  2. ETHICSOC 171. Justice (same as IPS 208, PHIL 171, POLISCI 136S, PUBLPOL 207)
  3. Two 4- or 5-unit undergraduate courses on a subject approved by the faculty director, designed to encourage students to explore those issues in Ethics in Society that are of particular interest to them, ideally with the honors thesis in mind.
  4. ETHICSOC 190. Honors Seminar
  5. ETHICSOC 200 A, B. Honors Thesis. On a subject approved by the honors adviser, with the work spread over two quarters. To receive honors in Ethics in Society, students must receive a grade of 'B+' on their thesis.

Typically, requirements 1 and 2 are completed before the Winter Quarter of the junior year. ETHICSOC 190 is taken in Winter Quarter of the junior year and requirement 3 at any time during the sophomore, junior, or Autumn Quarter of the senior year. The honors thesis is written during Autumn and Winter quarters of the senior year. Exceptions to this must be approved by the faculty director. Courses taken to fulfill the Ethics in Society honors requirement may be double-counted for Philosophy and other majors.


Ethics in Society
Cognate Courses

This is a partial list of courses that may be used to fulfill requirement 3. Courses not on this list can be submitted to the faculty director for approval.

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