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SDG Academy: Ethics in Action

What do the world's great religious and secular philosophies have to say about ethical conduct? Which virtues are common across faiths? And what role do religious communities have to play in building a more just and sustainable world?

10 weeks
2–4 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

About this course

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The challenges of sustainable development are more than technical or political--they are also moral, calling on us to examine who we are as human beings, and who we want to be going forward.

This examination of what makes a "good person"--called virtue ethics--has long been the purview of philosophers and theologians. So what do the world's great religious and secular philosophies have to say about ethical conduct? Which virtues are common across creeds and cultures? And what role do ethics, spirituality, and religious communities have to play in sustainable development?

In 2016, distinguished leaders from the world's major religious traditions, philosophers, scholars, and scientists were invited by Pope Francis to the Vatican for a series of meetings. Known as the Ethics in Action initiative, these meetings sought to promote dialogue and find consensus about the values needed to advance transformative action for our common home and the human family.

This course features Ethics in Action meeting participants, as well as other leading voices, and discusses the perspectives of some of the world's great traditions and their role in addressing our world's most pressing challenges, including poverty, corruption, and climate change. It presents multi-faith cooperation as essential for achieving sustainable development, and calls for the development of a new shared virtue ethics to bring us all into a sustainable and peaceful future.

This course is for:

  • Religious and spiritual communities and individuals who want to contribute to the work of sustainable development
  • Development professionals who want to understand and engage local faith communities
  • Advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in philosophy, religion, theology, and their relation to global issues

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcripts: English, Español, Русский
  • Associated skills: Theology, Sustainable Development, Cooperation, Ethical Conduct

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • The meaning of virtue ethics and its expression in several major religious and philosophical traditions
  • The importance of establishing multi-faith consensus to advance sustainable development
  • The importance of involving faith communities in peace and development work
  • How ethics motivates the actions of religious and secular leaders, politicians, scientists, civil society, and business
  • What shared virtue ethics are needed to create a more peaceful and prosperous world for everyone

Module 1: Introduction to Ethics in Action
Chapter 1: Sustainable Development and the Need for Ethics in Action
Chapter 2: The History of Sustainable Development and the SDGs
Chapter 3: The Moral and Practical Limits of Global Capitalism
Chapter 4: Moral Teachings and Sustainable Development: An Overview from the World’s Religions

Module 2: Religion and Virtue Ethics - Part I
Chapter 1: Lessons from Classical Greece
Chapter 2: Lessons from Classical China
Chapter 3: A Hindu Perspective
Chapter 4: A Buddhist Perspective

Module 3: Religion and Virtue Ethics - Part II
Chapter 1: A Jewish Perspective
Chapter 2: A Catholic Perspective
Chapter 3: A Protestant Evangelical Perspective
Chapter 4: An Islamic Perspective
Chapter 5: An Indigenous Perspective

Module 4: The Virtuous Society
Chapter 1: Virtue Ethics as a Multi-Religious Consensus
Chapter 2: Inquiry and Moral Reasoning
Chapter 3: Spirituality and the Common Good
Chapter 4: Virtue Ethics and Science
Chapter 5. Gender Equality: A Confucian Perspective

Module 5: Poverty and Inequality
Chapter 1: The Challenge of Global Poverty
Chapter 2: The Rights to Health, Education, and Decent Work
Chapter 3: Christian Social Teachings on Poverty
Chapter 4: Ethical Conduct Towards the Vulnerable
Chapter 5: Ethical Actions to End Poverty

Module 6: Peace
Chapter 1: The State of Conflict around the World
Chapter 2: Barriers to Lasting Peace among and within Nations
Chapter 3: Tenets of Peace of the World’s Religions
Chapter 4: Religion and Peacebuilding
Chapter 5: Actions for a Lasting Peace: Lessons from Syria

Module 7: Refugees, Trafficking, and Modern Slavery
Chapter 1: Drivers of Migration, Human Trafficking, and Modern
Chapter 2: The Ethics of Migration and Refugees
Chapter 3: The Ethics of Modern Slavery and Trafficking
Chapter 4: Political and Social Responses to Forced Migration

Module 8: Environmental Justice
Chapter 1: Environmental Perils Facing the Planet
Chapter 2: A Hindu Approach to Environmental Care
Chapter 3: Laudato Si’ and Climate Justice
Chapter 4: The Rights of Indigenous Populations
Chapter 5: Defending our Common Home: Global and Local Actions

Module 9: Politics and Power
Chapter 1: Politics, Power, and the Common Good
Chapter 2: The Moral Underpinnings of Statecraft
Chapter 3: Ethics and the International Political Order
Chapter 4: Corruption and Politics Today

Module 10: Business, Work, and the Common Good
Chapter 1: The Moral Basis for Business Activity
Chapter 2: Corruption and Global Business
Chapter 3: Technology and the Dignity of Work
Chapter 4: Business Leadership for Community Well-being

Course Conclusion: Towards a New Virtue Ethics for Sustainable Development

Examining Ethics in Action: Case Studies

  • Pope Francis and Multi-Faith Action
  • Religions for Peace
  • Community-based Healthcare in Africa
  • Health and Climate Change
  • Reflections from the Business Community
  • Move Humanity

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