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Philosophy 112

PHIL 112: Introduction: Ethics and Society

Credit Hours: (3)

This course introduces students to philosophy through the study of ethics. Readings from major philosophers focus questions about value in human life and action. Topics covered may include the nature of ethical reasoning and moral obligation, the value of morality to the individual and society, how ethics helps us understand our place in the universe, and how ethical ideas clarify moral problems facing society. This course has been approved for the General Education credit in the Humanities Area of the curriculum.

 

Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course introduces the major Western approaches to moral theory as it acquaints students with some of the main figures and schools of thought in this tradition. The works of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Kant, and Rawls are considered. This course also familiarizes students with the process of applying ethical theories to current social issues including problems relating to rights, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty. In this applied portion of the class, multicultural approaches to social problems may be considered, such as feminist, African, or Eastern perspectives. Throughout the course students are encouraged not only to understand the authors’ positions about ethical theory and social problems, but to evaluate them in a process of developing their own viewpoints.

Students will explore questions such as the following:

Questions about the nature of ethical reasoning and moral obligation - Can ethical disputes be solved rationally? What roles do reason and emotion play in ethical decision making? What, if any, are our moral obligations? Are there absolute moral rules? Does morality depend upon religion?

Questions about the value of morality to the individual and society - Why should we care about ethics? Are values relative?

Questions about how ethics helps us understand our place in the universe - What sort of life is worth living? What, if anything, is our purpose in life? Who constitutes my moral community?

Questions about how ethical ideas clarify moral problems facing society - How can health care be justly distributed? Is euthanasia morally permissible? Can the death penalty be morally justified? Is there such a thing as a "just war?" Is animal experimentation morally permissible?

 

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course is taught through the use of various techniques, including lectures, collaborative learning activities, class discussions, writing assignments, and presentations. This course is taught by a variety of professors with different teaching styles, but each professor combines a number of these techniques within his/her particular style. Regardless of who teaches this course, it provides students with the opportunity not only to understand and evaluate traditional and contemporary ethical views, but also to explore and evaluate their own values. Basic research skills, including the use of computer technology, are emphasized through written assignments. Among the activities students can expect in this course are the following:

  • Lecture and discussion led by the instructor
  • Small-group discussion
  • In-class debates
  • Individual and group presentations
  • Informal writing assignments
  • Keeping journals
  • Individual and group research projects involving library and Internet searches
  • Written and oral analyses of texts

 

Goals and Objectives of the Course

Upon the successful completion of this course students should be able to demonstrate:

(1) a basic understanding of the nature and methods of moral philosophy as an academic discipline
(2) a basic understanding of the major figures and schools of thought in the Western ethical tradition
(3) an awareness of contemporary and multicultural perspectives in ethics
(4) an ability to apply ethical theory to current social problems
(5) an awareness of the importance of precision and clarity in thought and in the use of language
(6) an ability to use critical and constructive reasoning skills.

BROAD GENERAL EDUCATIONAL GOALS

As part of the General Education program, this course is designed to help students achieve a number of broad learning goals in addition to the course-specific goals identified above. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

1. Think critically and creatively about ideas, issues and problems, especially ethical issues and moral problems, in a variety of contexts.
2. Identify and analyze logical arguments and construct logical and persuasive arguments related to diverse ethical theories and concrete moral problems.
3. Employ basic research skills, including the use of computer technology, to investigate and gather information on various topics and figures discussed in this course.
4. Work cooperatively with others in small group discussions, research projects, and presentations.
5. Identify personal and cultural assumptions and moral values underlying the views presented in the texts and by classmates.

GOALS FOR AREA 4 – HUMANITIES

In addition to the course-specific goals and the broad General Education learning goals indicated above, this course is intended to help students achieve a number of learning objectives in the Humanities Area of the General Education program. In particular, upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the general nature and various methods of inquiry in the humanities, especially as those methods apply to the study of the ethical dimension of human experience.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the characteristically human quest for meaning, value, and order in life, especially as this is expressed in the development of moral codes and ethical systems.
  • Analyze and evaluate historically and culturally diverse conceptions of the meaning and purpose of life, as this is reflected in the views of classical and contemporary ethical theorists.
  • Interpret and critically evaluate classical and contemporary texts as diverse expressions of the human condition.
  • Discuss in speech and writing the relevance of inquiry into human values and meaning as this relates to their own lives.

 

Assessment Measures

Student progress in achieving the course-specific objectives and the General Education goals established for this course will be measured in a variety of ways. Because this course is taught by several instructors, the specific assessment instruments employed may vary, but in every case the instructor will employ a number of the following methods to evaluate aspects of students learning.

  • Graded and ungraded homework assignments may be used to measure students ability to read texts carefully, to identify underlying values and assumptions, to articulate central concepts, to analyze and construct logical arguments, and to employ basic research methods.
  • Journals may be used to measure the development of self-reflection and progress in critical and creative thinking about the ideas, issues, and texts of the course.
  • Class discussion, debates, and small group discussion may be used to measure the student’s logical reasoning and oral communication skills as well as the student’s ability to work with others in a shared process of inquiry.
  • Individual and group oral presentations may be used to measure the student’s understanding of particular philosophical positions or issues as well as the student’s ability to present logical and persuasive arguments.
  • Quizzes and objective tests may be used to measure the student’s basic knowledge of the course material and the student’s ability to read carefully and think with clarity.
  • Essay exams may be used to measure the student’s understanding of the nature and methods of philosophy, knowledge of the course material, ability to analyze and construct arguments, and ability to think and to write with clarity.
  • Research projects may be used to measure the student’s ability to employ appropriate research methods and technologies.
  • Term papers may be used to measure the student’s understanding of the nature of philosophical inquiry and knowledge of specific figures or issues addressed in the course, as well as to measure the student’s ability to develop a sustained and persuasive argument, to think and write with clarity, and to demonstrate an appreciation of the significance of philosophy to his or her own life.

 

Other Course Information

 

Approval and Subsequent Reviews

DATE ACTION REVIEWED BY
July 1991 Correlation of instructors' approaches Charles D. Taylor
May 1994 Catalog entry revised Kim J. Kipling
May 1995 Catalog entry revised Kim J. Kipling
January 27, 1997 Course title change, Course number changed Approved by VPAA
April 7, 1999 Syllabus revision Kim J. Kipling
September 18, 2001 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling