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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

William J. Talbott
PHIL 240
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Ethics

Critical introduction to various philosophical views of the basis and presuppositions of morality and moral knowledge. Critical introduction to various types of normative ethical theory, including utilitarian, deontological, and virtue theories.

Class description

In everyday life, ethical questions arise in situations in which it is important to determine what is the right thing to do. Thus, in everyday life, ethical questions are usually questions about the moral rightness or wrongness of particular acts or particular kinds of acts. But philosophers have wondered about the nature of moral rightness (or moral wrongness) itself: What does it mean to say that an act is morally right (or morally wrong)? Can moral rightness (or moral wrongness) be defined in nonmoral terms? Even if moral rightness and moral wrongness cannot be defined in nonmoral terms, is there some objective difference between right and wrong acts? If so, what is the difference? If not, does it make sense to say that statements concerning the rightness or wrongness of acts are true or false? These are questions of philosophical ethics. This course will provide an introduction to the most important answers that have been given to these questions, including an introduction to the philosophical debates on relativism vs. non-relativism, cognitivism vs. non-cognitivism, and egoism vs. altruism. The course will provide an introduction to the most influential ethical theories, including utilitarianism, deon-tological ethics, virtue ethics, and communitarian ethics. The course will provide the student with an enhanced understanding of the special characteristics of moral judgments and will provide the necessary background for more advanced work in ethics. There will be several short, written assignments, two 50-minute exams, and a Final Exam. Suitable for nonmajors; no prerequisites. Meets I&S and VLPA Requirements.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites.

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.
Additional Information
Last Update by Beverly A Wessel
Date: 05/04/2001