Skip to main content

Instructor: Ben Schwartz. This course meets MTWRF 1:15 – 2:45 p.m. via remote synchronous (RS) instruction.

Course Description:
In this course, we will survey and cover a variety of topics in moral theory. In doing so, we will critically reflect upon our judgments that various actions, goals, values, and ethical approaches are right or wrong (or good or bad).

A) First, we will consider some “challenges to morality”. These include the position that moral judgments are merely subjective; the idea that moral claims are made true by God’s command(s); and the view that what is right and wrong is whatever one’s culture deems to be right and wrong (cultural relativism). Also, we will consider the view that what’s right or wrong is determined or defined by what promotes one’s own interests (egoism), as well as some apparent tensions between happiness and morality.

B) Next, we will consider several prominent approaches to ethics that presumethere are objective moral facts and that provide a general theory to describe and explain them. The three general approaches to ethics that we will mainly consider are Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue Ethics.  (We will also plan to discuss Feminist Ethics and Existentialism.)

C) In the final phase of the course, we will examine some political philosophy, including Libertarianism and Rawls’ Theory of Justice. Then, we will use our philosophical skills to examine several moral issues of current as well as perennial interest: these include economic markets and morals, world hunger, the environment [time permitting], euthanasia, death, and the meaning of life. (As we examine these topics, we will consider how they relate to the different ethical approaches discussed earlier.)

Main Course Objectives/Goals:
1) The first objective of this course is to become familiar with a wide range of fundamental moral questions and moral theories (with the further hope that you may be able to connect these with moral issues in your own life).

2) The second main objective of the course is to learn how to critically evaluate different arguments and views about moral theories and moral issues. This will require developing the ability to clearly defend, verbally and in writing, your position on general moral approaches as well as on more specific moral questions.