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.
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.
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.”)
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.
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”)
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
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.
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
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