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Important Notices



Class Accommodations


Course Information Overview

In this course we examine critically the major theories that have shaped the Western philosophical tradition in ethics.  We will focus mainly on deontological and teleological normative theories; however, some attention will be given to recent developments, e.g., psychology of moral development, feminist ethics and virtue ethics.  The normative ethical theories will be applied to selected moral problems in order to demonstrate the relevance of adopting the different approaches.

Required Texts:


Pojman, Louis P., Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings, Fourth Edition, Thomson-Wadsworth, 2002.


Graybosch, Anthony J., Scott, Gregory M., and Garrison, Stephen M. The Philosophy Student Writer’s Manuel, Second Edition, Prentice Hall, 2003.

Optional Texts:


Rachels, James, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Third Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1999.


McHenry, Leemon and Yagisawa, Takashi, Reflections on Philosophy: Introductory Essays, Second Edition, Longman, 2003. (See especially, Timmons, Chapter Six—“Ethics,” Whisnant, Chapter Seven—“Feminist Ethics” and McHenry, Appendix, “Writing Philosophical Papers.”)


Course Format:

This course will combine a lecture and discussion format employing group dynamics to facilitate participation.  Since this course is re-designed (as a four unit course) with the purpose of helping students improve writing skills, we will also spend considerable time on in-class activities devoted to composition, thesis formulation, critique and revision. 



1.  Attendance and participation in discussion, group dynamics and in-class paper critiques. (10%) 


2.  Quizzes.  (20%)  Approximately 8 quizzes will be given.  Students are allowed to drop the lowest quiz grade.   Quizzes provide continuous assessment on course material and prepare students for the final exam.


3.  First paper, expository. Due in roughly the 5th or 6th week. (20%) 


3.  Second paper, argumentative.  Due in roughly the 12th week. (20%)  A description of the paper, including proposal, draft due dates, and final draft due will be provided in advance for both papers.


4.  Final Exam (30%)    The final exam is comprehensive and includes objective questions (true/false, multiple choice) and essay questions.  Students will receive a study guide for the final exam. 

Grading Standards:


Final grades will be assigned according to the following standard percentages:  90-100= A Range (Excellent); 80-89= B Range (Good); 70-79= C Range (Satisfactory); 60-69 = D Range (Passing); 0-59= F Range (Failure).  Plus and minus grading will be used.


Grades are assigned on an A to F basis.  All passing grades (D and above) require demonstrated ability to explain class material in rudimentary terms, plus regular class attendance and participation. Satisfactory grades (C range) require demonstrated comprehension of the material and ability to identify major positions, theories and concepts of the philosophers studied.  A good performance (B range) requires demonstrated ability to explain material clearly, accurately and with insight.  Finally, grades indicating excellent performance (A range) require, in addition to all of the above-mentioned criteria, demonstrated ability to evaluate critically and defend alternatives in a creative manner, as well as the demonstrated ability to draw insightful connections between issues, ideas and positions. 


Tentative Schedule of Topics and Assignments:


1. Introduction to Ethics

Morality and Ethics

Deontological and Consequentialist Theories

What is the foundation of right and wrong?

Reading: Pojman, pp. 1-7.


2.  Cultural and Ethical Relativism

Ethical Relativism versus Ethical Objectivism


Reading: Pojman, pp. 15-62.

(optional: Rachels,  Ch. 2 “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”)


3.  Subjectivism and Emotivism

Reading: Pojman, pp. 399-441 (selected readings)

(optional: Rachels, Ch. 3 “Subjectivism”

4. Psychological and Ethical Egoism


Reading: Pojman, pp. 63-109.

(optional: Rachels, Chs. 5 and 6, “Psychological Egoism” and “Ethical Egoism”)

5.  Utilitarianism

Bentham's Hedonic Calculus and Mill's qualitative approach


Reading: Pojman, pp. 111-117 and 151-240 (selected readings).

(optional: Rachels, Chs. 7 and 8, “The Utilitarian Approach” and “The Debate over Utilitarianism.” Also see Timmons, Ch. 11 “Ethics”)


6.  Kant's Universalism

Reason and Duty

The Categorical Imperative

Universal Laws: Consistency and

Respect for Persons


Reading: Pojman, 251-318 (selected readings)

(optional: Rachels, Chs. 9 and 10, “Are there Absolute Moral Rules” and “Kant and Respect for Persons.”  Also see Timmons, Ch. 11 “Ethics”)


7.  The Challenge of Feminist Ethics

Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development

Film: Milgram Studies, "Obedience"

Gilligan's Critique: Perspectives of Care and Justice


Reading: Pojman, pp. 682-712 (selected readings)

(optional Whisnant, Ch. 7 “Feminist Ethics,” and Rachels, Ch. 12 “Feminism and the Ethics of Care”)


8.  Virtue Ethics

Aristotle’s ethical theory


Reading: Pojman, pp. 329-397 (selected readings)

(optional Rachels, Ch. 13 “The Ethics of Virtue”)


9.  Religion and Ethics


Reading: Pojman, pp. 597-625 (selected readings)


Review for Final Exam


*Final Exam


Disclaimer: The instructor reserves the right to change the schedule of topics and assignments at any point during the semester in order to serve better the stated objectives of the course.



Recommended Readings


William Frankena, Ethics


Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson, Moral Realism and Moral Objectivity


David Ross, Kant's Ethical Theory


Peter Singer, A Companion to Ethics


Mark Timmons, Moral Theory

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics


Plato, Republic

Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals

Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

Laurence Kohlberg, The Psychology of Moral Development

Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice