Philosophy 112

PHIL 112
Introduction: Ethics and Society


1. Catalog Entry

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.

2. Detailed Description 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?

3. 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:
    1) Lecture and discussion led by instructor
    2) Small-group discussion
    3) In-class debates
    4) Individual and group presentations
    5) Informal writing assignments
    6) Keeping Journals
    7) Individual and group research projects involving library and Internet searches
    8) Written and oral analysis of texts

4. Goals and Objectives of the Course

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate:
    1) a basic understanding of the nature and methods of 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 Education 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.

Specifically, this course meets the learning outcomes for University CORE B, Goal 7:
Radford University students will understand that human experience has given rise to significant questions and be aware of the nature and methods of inquiry in the humanities.
Radford University students will:
    1) Identify principles, concepts, or developments crucial to inquiry in a humanities discipline;
    2) Recognize how a method of inquiry in the humanities can be applied to a disciplinary question.

5. 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 student learning:
    1) Graded and ungraded homework assignments may be used to measure the student's 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.
    2) 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.
     3) Class discussions, 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.
    4) 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.
    5) 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.
    6) 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.
    7) Research reports may be used to measure the student's ability to employ appropriate research methods and technologies.
    8) 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 and concerns.

6. Other Course Information

None

Review and Approval
July 1991
May 1994
May 1995
January 27, 1997
April 17, 1998
March 31, 1999
September 18, 2001
June 20, 2015