Introduction to Ethics - 1st year

Introduction to some important ethical theories including: the duty ethics of Kant; the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill; ethical relativism; and the virtue ethics of at least one of the following: Plato, Aristotle, and Confucius. The course will also examine some current ethical issues. Questions considered may include: What is the good life? Do we have a moral duty to act in certain ways? Are there such things as natural human rights? Are some values more compelling than others?


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of important ethical systems;

2. Demonstrate their respect for different ethical perspectives;

3. Critique some aspects of an ethical position;

4. Clearly formulate their ethical position on an issue;

5. Develop arguments, which are based upon sound inferences and clear

6. Conduct library research on a topic, as appropriate.


Course topics will include the following:

1. Introduction - What is the study of ethics?

2. Examination of ethical relativism and its implications.

3. Examination of the utilitarianism.

4. Examination of the duty ethics.

5. Examination of the virtue ethics of at least one of the following: Plato, Aristotle, Confucius

6. Development of the ability to formulate the student’s own ethical position on an issue.

Method of Instruction:

1. Lecture

2. Class Discussion

3. Small Group Work

4. Student Presentations

5. Library Work

6. Audio-Visual Media Resources

7. Possible research using such techniques as interviewing an expert on an issue

Types of Assignments:

1. Assigned readings in textbook and various handouts with questions on the reading

2. In-class writing on discussion questions followed by group discussion

3. Additional appropriate assignments may include library research in preparation for short papers, term papers, or oral presentations

4. Students must be able to take notes from the reading and lecture materials

5. Students must be able to write well-organized essays and/or reports reasonably free of major errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation

6. Students must be able to follow ethical arguments

7. Students must be able to synthesize ideas from several sources and to make
inferences regarding important points in papers and oral presentations

Sample Text:

1. The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy. 2nd edition. (James Rachels, McGraw-Hill College, 1999)

2. Ethics: Selections from Classical and Contempory Writers. 7th edition (Oliver Johnson, Harcourt Brace College, 1994)

3. Thinking Through Confucius (David Hall and Roger Ames, State University of New York, 1987)

4. The Analectsof Confucius: A Philosophical Translation (translated by Roger Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr., Ballentine Books, 1998)

5. Current Issues and Enduring Questions: Methods and Models of Arguments (Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau)