SEGL Summer Institute Pre-Program Materials

SEGL Summer Institute students,

Congratulations again for being selected to participate in the SEGL Summer Institute!

We have worked hard to hand-select a small group of motivated students who represent an impressive diversity of backgrounds.  We are delighted that you are part of that group.

Before arriving at SEGL this summer, we would like everyone to complete one assignment.  This assignment will help us interact more meaningfully with each other and with the guest experts we meet.

With that in mind, we ask that each student complete the following readings and author a journal entry before you arrive on June 25.  We think you will find these readings both helpful and provocative.  Please note that although you should be thorough, there is no assigned length to your journal entries.  We are looking for quality, not quantity.

We look forward to meeting you very soon!


Arielle Galston Summer Institute Director Noah Bopp SEGL Founder and Head of School

Hardin and Singer DIRECTIONS:

  1. Read the prompt.
  2. Complete the lecture/readings.
  3. Respond in your journal.

PROMPT: What is ethics?  According to Joel Rosenthal, the President of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, “Ethics stems from Socrates’ question, “How should one live?” The study of ethics is an attempt to answer the question, what is the right thing to do? What action is right rather than wrong, better rather than worse? Ethics is an investigation into the claims that have a hold on us. For me, ethics hinges on the concept of “choice.” What standards do we use when we make choices and judgments? What values do we invoke and why? In studying ethics, we use reason to interrogate our own decision-making process and hierarchy of values.”

In this assignment, you will read the Singer and Hardin articles–likely two of the most controversial essays you will ever read.  Try and grasp the key points of each article, and the arguments that each thinker makes to justify his view.

In your journal, discuss whether you agree with Hardin or Singer, and why.  What does your answer say about who you are and how you want to live your life?


  1. Singer, Peter. “The Singer Solution to World Poverty,” The New York Times Magazine, September 5, 1999
  2. Hardin, Garrett. “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor,” Psychology Today, September 1974