Office of the Registrar
Campus Address
Hanover, NH
Phone: (603) 646-xxxx
Fax: (603) 646-xxxx
Email: reg@Dartmouth.EDU

Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2017-18

MALS 370 Practical Wisdom:Learning the moral skills to make tough decisions in uncertain times

The subject of this course is practical wisdom, the capacity to make difficult ethical choices. Aristotle called this human capacity phronesis and saw it as essential for doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. Throughout the course, we will be investigating five questions:

  1. What is practical wisdom?
  2. When and why do we need it?
  3. How do we learn practical wisdom?
  4. What institutional forces threaten practical wisdom?
  5. How can institutions be designed to encourage and nurture practical wisdom?

We will investigate these questions in several important domains in life - friendship, education, work, medicine, and family. Because practical wisdom is learned by reflecting on our own practices and experiences, we will rely heavily on stories about your own experiences that you will write and present in light of the theory and cases we read. Improving our own skills in reflective practice will also be encouraged by the format of the class which will rely on well-informed and thoughtful discussion in a seminar format.

We will also investigate these questions more theoretically in an effort to develop a solid understanding of what makes wisdom or judgment a crucial component of our lives. Throughout the course, we will be contrasting decision-making that depends on practical wisdom with decision making that depends on following various kind of rules or responding to external rewards and punishments.

This will be an interdisciplinary course with readings drawn from philosophy, ethics, literature, psychology, education, and sociology. Prior knowledge of these fields is not a prerequisite. We will frequently be joined by guests from other departments and from the Medical School.


Kenneth Sharpe