Philosophy 331 - Introduction to Ethics - Fall
Professor: William Sweet
Office: 606 Nicholson Tower
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; 3.45-5 pm, and by
Course web page: http://people.stfx.ca/wsweet/philosophy331.html
This class meets in the 'Q' time block (T/Th 2.15-3.30)
The object of the course is to introduce students to some major ethical
theories. (This will serve as a foundation for later courses in applied and
professional ethics, and for 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.
It is essential in learning how to do philosophy that students be prepared
to ask and answer questions in class.
The course will focus on the following questions:
- What is ethics? What is its relation to ethical reasoning?
- What is it to be moral?
- to do what is in my self interest (egoism) or what I think is
- to do what my culture says is moral (cultural relativism / cultural
- to do what reason commands (Kant)
- to promote the greatest amount of happiness (Mill)
- to become the best person I can be (perfectionism and virtue theory
- to follow the natural law (Maritain)
- What is the standard for right action? (What makes an act "moral"
- How can this standard be determined?
- To whom does it apply?
- How is between being "ethical" distinct from following law, custom,
prudence, personal inclination or love of self?
Texts / Readings:
There are two textbooks for the course
- Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, ed Steven
Cahn and Peter Markie, 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. [This
book will also be used in Philosophy 332]
2. Jacques Maritain, Natural Law: reflections on theory
and practice, South Bend, IN: St Augustine's Press, 2001.
Additional readings may be placed on reserve in the library
Method of Evaluation:
- Written assignment (November) 25 %
- Test (October) - 20%
- Class summaries - 10 %
- Christmas examination 45 %
Be sure to check for information on assignments and dates of tests and