Philosophy | Introduction to Ethics
P140 | 3363 | Ceballes


Events in Rwanda and the Balkans in recent years have focused attention on
human rights, "ethic cleansing," and genocide.  Do nothing, as in Rwanda, and
hundreds of thousands of people may be killed.  Act, and thousands of people
may still be killed, some directly by our actions.  If we act, agreements regarding
sovereignty and self-determination may be violated.  What should we do?
Should principles of state autonomy and sovereignty outweigh principles
opposing crimes against humanity?  What is the best way to support our moral
principles?  If we believe that we should be tolerant of other cultures, then how
tolerant should we be?  Is talk of universal human rights really another form of
ethnocentrism?  Are there moral standards that everyone should be expected to
follow?  These are but a few questions which arise in current debates about
ethics and politics.  The main aim of this course is to introduce several
philosophical approaches to ethics and to stimulate careful consideration and
dialogue about current ethical matters.  We will also try to maintain a balance
between theory and practice.

In the first part of the course we will study the views of philosophers such as
Aristotle, Plato, Mill, Kant, and others.  As we reflect upon their writings we will
also begin to think about the nature of moral character, selfishness, moral
relativism, moral responsibility, evil, justice, and our duties to other people.  In the
second part of the course, we will examine the moral foundation for human rights
and inquire into the ethics of human cloning.  Our earlier theoretical preparation
will serve to put these current problems into perspective.

The requirements for this course will consist of class participation, one or two
tests, two 3- page papers, and a final exam.  Our main readings will be selected
from the following texts: Moral Philosophy: A Reader, The ethics of Cloning
Humans, and On Human Rights.  We may also supplement our main readings
with a film or work of fiction.