Philosophy | Introduction to Ethics
P140 | 13469 | McAninch

Ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the question of
how to live. Revolving around that question is a cluster of other
questions central to ethics: What is good? What is right? What is
morally permitted, required, or prohibited? And what is it that
determines whether certain actions are morally right or morally

In this class, we will consider how some ethical theories construct
answers to these questions. Divine Command Theory, for example,
claims that morality issues from Godís commands. Moral relativism,
as the name suggests, claims that moral evaluations are true or
false only relative to some evaluator or some cultural standard. We
will scrutinize these claims. We will then delve into the two most
dominant modern ethical theories, Utilitarianism and Kantian Ethics.
If time allows, we will look at an alternative tradition rooted in
the work of Aristotle, a view known as Virtue Ethics. Finally we
will consider whether these theories do indeed provide insight and
guidance in answering the all-important questions of what to do and,
more broadly, how to live. To that end, we will periodically use
these theoretical frameworks to examine some real life ethical
problems. Ethical problems we will consider include the following:
Are we ever morally permitted or morally required to lie? Are we
morally required to give money to famine victims? Are we ever
morally permitted or morally required to kill the innocent? Are we
ever morally permitted to end our own lives at a time of our

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 (and fascinating!)
philosophical texts. You will be graded on the basis of attendance
and participation, weekly quizzes, 2-3 short writing assignments,
and a midterm and final exam. The readings will be drawn mostly from
Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, Eds. Steven M.
Cahn and Peter Markie. If you have any questions about the course,
feel free to email the instructor at