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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Cass J Weller
PHIL 342
Seattle Campus

History of Modern Ethics

Development of moral thought from Hobbes through Nietzsche, with particular emphasis on the ethical writings of Hume, Kant, and John Stuart Mill.

Class description

In this course we study moral theorists of the 17th and 18th century primarily in the British Empiricist tradition. We examine their treatment of the moral relations among individuals and the relation between the individual and civil society as a whole. One goal is to achieve a clearer understanding, if not a resolution, of the issue between those who say that morality and civil society are in some sense unnatural and those who say that participating in some form of moral and political community is partly constitutive of human nature. Another, related, goal is to assess the arguments offered by the authors we read for and against the proposition that the duties imposed by morality are reducible to the duties of narrow self interest. In addition to questions concerning the nature and authority or justification of specifically moral claims we will also mine these authors for their views on reasons for action in general.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Reading, discussion in class and on newsgroup (5%), two short (5-7 pp.) papers ( 25% each), weekly written answers to questions on assigned reading (5%), and a final exam (40%).


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Beverly A Wessel
Date: 02/12/2003