Philosophy | Introduction to Ethics
P140 | 15636 | McAninch
There is morally significant difference between kicking away a
cardboard box in my path and kicking away another person in my path.
There’s also a morally significant difference between my tripping
over the cardboard box and my tripping over your foot after you
deliberately extend it in front of me. All of this is obvious of
course. What is less obvious, though, is precisely what it is about
persons that gives them moral status and makes them moral agents.
What feature or features of persons morally requires us to pay them
special consideration? And what feature or features of persons makes
them capable of making moral judgments and acting morally and
immorally? And how do answers to these questions shed light on the
fundamental question of ethics: namely, which actions are morally
permitted, which are morally prohibited, and which are morally
The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to ethical
theory by considering these questions. Part of this task involves
critically examining key historical and contemporary texts in
ethical theory, including works by Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Benthem,
John Stuart Mill, Onora O’Neill, and Thomas Nagel. Another part of
this task involves engaging in ethical reasoning ourselves. To do
so, we will explore some issues in the ethics of modern war, a topic
that certainly takes up the themes in question.
This is a philosophy course, and, although no prior experience with
philosophy is required, you should be aware that we will be doing
close and critical reading of challenging, but also fascinating,
philosophical texts. You will be graded on the basis of attendance
and participation, weekly quizzes, brief homework assignments, 2
writing assignments, and a midterm and final exam.