A Collection of Stories for Teaching Ethics

Luc Bovens, professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has created a website that gathers together and organizes various “short stories in world literature by both classical and contemporary writers” that may be useful in teaching a range of questions in ethics and social and political philosophy.

The site is called TESS: Teaching Ethics with Short Stories. Aimed primarily at college and high school students in humanities courses, it gives visitors the option of browsing through its collection of stories geographically or thematically. The themes include “autonomy & dignity,” “luck & irony”, “gender & relationships,” “truth & deception,” and others, as you can see on the image of the theme menu, below:

The site is not just useful but also beautifully designed, with artwork by Fiorella Lavado.

If you click on a tile, you’re brought to a page with brief descriptions of various relevant stories. For example, if you click on “truth & deception”, you get the following:

Clicking on any of the stories will bring you to a page with a link to that story, links to some relevant news articles, and a set of questions.

The site is supported by the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has also received funding from the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method and from the Centre for the Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Professor Bovens says:  “this is a dynamic project and the material on this site is just meant to be a seed. I invite you to contact me and to bring in your own suggestions of short stories addressing moral problems. Together we can make it grow.” You can check out the site here.

Related: “An Online Trove of Ethics Cases“; “A Flowchart of Philosophical Novels and Stories“; “Philosophers in Fictional Works“; “The Art of Philosophy

Use innovative tools to teach clear and courageous thinking
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dave Baker
Dave Baker
4 years ago

This is an excellent resource and, of course, a great idea.

I’m surprised at the absence of science fiction, fantasy and horror, which are among the most philosophical genres of fiction, especially at the short length. I’ll be making some suggestions to Professor Bovens, but for now, Eric Schwitzgebel has a very good list: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2015/05/list-of-philosophical-science-fiction.html?m=1

4 years ago

This is absolutely incredible. Thanks so much to Luc and the sponsors.

Luc Bovens
4 years ago

Thanks very much for this reference to Eric Schwitzgebel’s website. Lots of interesting ideas in this website!
And thanks for the kind words.
I just ran across a “short stories for economics” teaching website by Phil Ruder that looks interesting as well: https://sites.google.com/a/ruders.org/economics-in-short-stories/
Maybe this is of interest to PPE or Phil Econ teachers in Philosophy! There are lots of good ideas in there as well.

Kolby Granville
3 years ago

The list of short stories Dr. Bovens put together is a wonderful open source resource resource. When our anthology (After Dinner Conversation) of new short stories asking ethical and philosophical questions came out, he was kind enough to write us a book cover review! Just a really wonderful person who supports others, certainly worth following the link to his website!

“…a terrific collection of short stories (for teaching) courses on civics, ethics, or contemporary social problems, in high school or junior college.” Philosophy Professor at Chapel Hill, Luc Bovens