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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

David M. Nixon
BISSEB 359
Bothell Campus

Ethics and Society

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.

Class description

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.

Recommended preparation

I have noticed that philosophy courses such as this one are often very very difficult for people who are not fluent in English.

Class assignments and grading


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 David M. Nixon
Date: 02/20/2014