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PHIL 230

Ethical Theory

Historical and contemporary answers to some of the main problems of ethics, including the standard of right and wrong, the criteria of goodness, the possibility of ethical knowledge and the place of reason in ethics.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Arts and Humanities 1 course

Fall Semester information

Erik Wielenberg

230A: Ethical Theory

This course is devoted to an examination of some of the central questions in theoretical ethics. Specifically, we will consider each of the following questions: What makes a human life good for the one who lives it? What is the nature of good (and evil) character? What makes morally right acts right? What is the relationship, if any, between living a moral life and living a life that is good for you? We will critically examine both historical and contemporary attempts to answer each of these questions. The readings include some classics of ethical philosophy by Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill, some works of fiction, such as Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" and Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", plus a smattering of shorter pieces from philosophy and psychology. The requirements include regular short response writing and a final paper.


Jeremy Anderson

230B: Ethical Theory

The question, "What should I do?" is unavoidable for us. Clearly, in many situations, some choices are better than others. Further, various accounts can be given for why some choices are better. In this course we will consider some major types of ethical theory -- that is, accounts why some choices are better -- and examine their features, merits, and weaknesses. We will also discuss whether there is an objective basis for ethical rules and, if time permits, we may also consider various controversial issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and war. Requirements will include take-home exams, papers, a presentation, and participation.


Jennifer Everett

230C: Ethical Theory

Historical and contemporary answers to some of the main problems of ethics, including the standard of right and wrong, the criteria of goodness, the possibility of ethical knowledge and the place of reason in ethics.