PHIL 160.001 – Introduction to Ethics

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Instructor: Dana Falkenberg. This course meets TR 8:00 – 9:15 a.m. in CW 103.

Ethics is a branch of practical philosophy. It concerns our actions, our doings, our attitudes, our ways of interacting with others and with the world. It is also a normative study – it is evaluative. We make claims that actions, characters, states of affairs, or even pleasures are good or bad, right or wrong, praiseworthy or blameworthy, just or unjust, fair or unfair. Our day to day lives are filled with these sorts of claims: “You shouldn’t have done that.” “I was treated unfairly.” “Cindy is a terrible friend.”

But what grounds these claims? Are they reasonable or unreasonable? Justified or unjustified? Are these claims the sorts of things that can be reasonable or justified? This is where philosophy comes in. Approaching moral questions in a philosophic manner requires that we assess and critically analyze our value judgments using reason and argument. Our beliefs and judgments are only as good as our reasons for holding them. Why is something good or bad, right or wrong? What do we mean by the terms good or bad, right or wrong? The major goal for you in this course is to learn how to make and assess arguments for moral claims and judgments.

In order to attempt to answer these questions and to learn how to think critically and philosophically about moral arguments, we will turn to some of the most influential and – arguably, at least — some of the very best works ever written on moral philosophy. We will finish the course with discussions of contemporary moral issues. Topics will be chosen by the class.