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Ethics: Theory and Practice

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
June 13, 2016 - June 24, 20162M-F 3:15-6:05POpenRobert Joynt10464

Course Description

What kind of justification can we give for our ethical decisions? Do other people have to accept our justifications? These are questions everyone grapples with, and wondering about it never ends. This course will address different answers philosophers give to these questions.

We’ve all faced tough ethical decisions and have given reasons to support what we did. Maybe you said that the ends justify the means, or that the means are important in themselves. Maybe you said something totally different. In this course, we’ll look at what reasons you can give and the philosophical theories that support them. We’ll also think about whether others have to accept your reasons. Are they from a different culture or background? Do they have different priorities? Does that matter?

Take promising: Maybe you think you should break a promise if the consequences of it will be better. Or maybe you think that, once you’ve made a promise, you shouldn’t break it no matter what! We will spend time discussing how folks like Aristotle, Mill, Kant, and contemporary philosophers answer these questions. We will finish by looking at some issues in applied ethics, like abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights, to think about the practical upshot of different moral views.

You may think that none of these questions have real answers, and it all just depends on your culture and your opinions. We will also put pressure on these assumptions by discussing moral subjectivism, cultural relativism, and moral realism.

Upon successful completion of the course, you will be able to think more clearly about ethical questions. You will understand basic arguments for different views about what is good, and you will be familiar with different positions on whether the good is just opinion, cultural indoctrination, or objective fact. Most importantly, since no part of life is immune to these questions, this course will form a strong foundation of mature questioning and reflection about issues in all spheres of your life from the most intimately personal to the most broadly social.

There are no prerequisites for this course.

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