introduction to ethics

course description

 In this class, we will study Western philosophical approaches to the following fundamental questions of ethics: What ought I do to be a good person?  What is a moral life?  Are there objective rights and wrongs about how to live or is all morality simply relative to a culture or to the individual?  We will also put these theories to work in addressing several contested contemporary “applied” moral issues like abortion.  The last two weeks of class will also focus on student group presentations on applied ethical issues of the student’s choosing. 

This course has three major aims:

  1. 1. To familiarize you with the major classic and contemporary ethical theories.
  2. 2. To challenge you to examine critically your own pre-conceived ideas about what is right and wrong.
  3. 3, To develop your critical thinking abilities especially with respect to arguments about matters of value, and to hone your ability to develop and defend well-reasoned positions on ethical issues both orally and in writing.

After taking this class, students should be able better to (1) understand, analyze, and evaluate moral claims and arguments, and (2) construct moral positions and defend them in writing.  These skills are vital for leading an examined life and should serve you in your public and private lives well beyond the walls of this classroom.