Philosophy 330 (first semester) - Ethics
Philosophy 331 - Ethical Theory
Professor (first semester): William Sweet
Office: 518 Nicholson Hall
Office Hours: 10 am - 12 pm, Tuesday; 3-5 pm, Monday and Wednesday, and by arrangement.
This class meets in the 'F' time block.
Course web page: http://www.stfx.ca/people/wsweet/phil330.html
The object of the course is to introduce students to some major ethical
theories and to the philosophical discussion of a number of contemporary
moral and social issues.
The class will have a 'lecture and discussion' format. The professor will
introduce a topic with a summary of the relevant arguments or a commentary
on a text. This will be followed by questions and discussion of the material
by the class as a whole (e.g., points of clarification or criticism and
of comparison; comments on the relations between or among different issues).
Students are expected to have prepared the readings before class, to attend
all of the classes and to participate in discussion.
Students who have more than 4 unjustified absences in a term will
be subject to sanctions.
It is essential in learning how to do philosophy that students be prepared
to ask and answer questions in class.
Students should make a point of reading and reviewing the material on these
This part of the course will focus on the following questions:
- Introduction to ethics
- What is it to be moral?
- to do what is in my self interest (egoism) or what I think is moral
- to do what my culture says is moral (cultural relativism / cultural
- to promote the greatest amount of happiness (Mill)
- to do one's duty (Kant)
- to follow natural laws (Maritain)
- to become the best person one can be (perfectionism and virtue
- What is the standard for right action? (What makes an act "moral"
- How can this standard be determined?
- To whom does it apply?
- Is there any difference between being "ethical" as distinct from
following law, custom, prudence, personal inclination or love of self?
- details of topics to be covered, to be announced.
- Edward Westermarck, Ethical Relativity
- Jacques Maritain, Natural Law: reflections on theory and practice,
South Bend, IN: St Augustine's Press, 2001
- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, (trans. Martin Ostwald) Bobbs-Merrill
- I. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, (trans.
H.J. Paton), Harper Torchbooks. (This translation has a very useful "analysis
of the argument" at the beginning and a commentary on some difficult passages
at the end.)
- J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism, (Ed. George Sher) Hackett Publ.
Additional readings may be placed on reserve in the library
- (Not required, but useful) Fagothey's Right and Reason,
(ninth edition) by Milton A. Gonsalves (Merrill Publ. Co: 1989). Previous
editions (catalogued as Right and Reason by Austin Fagothey) may
Method of Evaluation:
- First term quiz (October): 20%
- Class summaries, attendance, and participation: 10 %
- Short essay (November): 20%
- December examination: 50%
Be sure to check for information on assignments and dates of tests and