David M. Nixon
Examination of major ethical alternatives (egoism, utilitarianism, hedonism, virtue ethics, relativism, emotivism) along with competing visions of the good society (libertarian, communitarian, feminist). Analyzes several contemporary problems, such as legal moralism, affirmative action, euthanasia, capital punishment, corporate responsibility.
This class has two parts.
In the first part of the course we'll discuss various ethical theories -- that is, theories that try to explain what MAKES a particular action or policy morally right or wrong. For example, we all know that slavery (or stealing for no reason, or arson, etc.) are morally wrong. But it's harder to explain exactly WHY.
The second part of the course will be devoted to issues concerning death. We’ll talk about arguments for and against abortion, as well as arguments for and against euthanasia. If we have time, we’ll talk about arguments for and against the death penalty. We’ll talk about the funeral business, wills, living wills, obituaries, how one should live given the certainty of death, and other philosophical issues related to death. At the end of the quarter we will have a memorial service for YOU.
Student learning goals
Students will have a better understanding of some of the major ethical theories.
Students will be able to be more articulate when they argue for their own ethical positions.
Students will be able to be more understanding and empathetic to people whose ethical positions are different from their own.
I hope that after taking this class, when students get into a discussion with someone who has a different ethical perspective, the discussion will be more sophisticated and open, less judgmental and close-minded.
General method of instruction
reading & discussion.
Class assignments and grading