“What should I do?” – “What should we do?” – “How ought I to live?” – Finding answers to these questions is the goal of moral philosophy, or ethics. In this course, we will consider these questions in light of historical and contemporary philosophical thinking within the field of ethics. After familiarizing ourselves with the traditional moral categories and positions, we will turn to what is called applied ethics: evaluating particular actions and practices in a philosophically critical manner.
After completing the entire course, you should be able to:
• Grasp and explain some of the predominant philosophical positions regarding classic and contemporary problems within ethics and metaethics.
• Construct formal arguments from informal written passages and essays.
• Distinguish among a variety of different kinds of claims (e.g., ethical claims, ontological claims, conceptual claims, scientific claims, etc.), as well as determine what kinds of evidence such claims would require if to be reasonably believed.
• Better express one’s own perspective through writing and speaking, regarding both the philosophical problems raised in this course as well as issues that arise in every day contexts.
Honors students should be prepared to discuss the issues and questions at a level that reflects a close and critical reading of the articles assigned. To that end, I (a) make original, primary texts required reading, as opposed to merely suggested, (b) have students get more practice with philosophical writing, and finally (c) I devote less class time to addressing relatively basic concepts, giving us more time to discuss the issues and raise content questions. I will of course be available during office hours and online through our Blackboard site’s general discussion forum to answer any questions and to work one-on-one.
Course content: readings and discussions covering the four main branches of philosophical ethics -- value theory, normative ethics, applied ethics, and metaethics.
Answer the questions below as they would apply to one section. For all other sections, provide similar information in the Additional Sections Information box below.
two exams (no final), discussion posts, in-class activities