Patrick T. Smith
Philosophical consideration of some of the main moral problems of modern society and civilization, such as abortion, euthanasia, war, and capital punishment. Topics vary.
Ethical reasoning is difficult. Our ethical obligations may require us to do things that are quite demanding, and disagreements about what is to be valued can be passionate and rancorous. This class will focus on getting students to engage in critical and productive reflection about ethical theories, particular ethical problems, and questions of value. To that end, this course will have several parts. First, we will discuss and evaluate various attempts to "shortcut" ethical theory: psychological egoism, divine command theory, and cultural relativism. Next, we will examine the two major ethical theories--utilitarianism and Kantianism--that have dominated philosophical thinking about morality. With these systematic theories on the table, we will analyze some complex ethical and social issues: abortion, aid to the global poor, prostitution and climate change. The class will also aim to develop students' abilities to write argumentative, thesis-driven papers about controversial issues. TEXT: Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie, eds.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading