Introduction to Ethics

Course description. This course is an introduction to ethics. In general, ethics is the study of value in the world and how we ought to respond to it. This involves questions about how we ought to live and how we ought to treat one another, which are difficult, important, and unavoidable. Our goal in this course is to think critically about these questions and to explore some of the ways philosophers have approached them. We will investigate the relationship between religion and morality, the relationship between evolution and morality, and the prospects for moral relativism and nihilism. We will, then, consider some historically influential attempts to formulate systematic ethical theories. These are theories that attempt to answer the question "What is good?". And finally, we will turn to one controversial ethical issue: the moral status of non-human animals. We will consider both the arguments for vegetarianism and the arguments for the permissibility of eating meat (along with various related issues)---we will assess these arguments in light of the positions and distinctions from the earlier sections of the course.

Recent Announcements

  • Welcome to ethics This is where I will post important course updates and announcements. Please visit the course website regularly and/or subscribe to this announcements feed. On the website I will also ...
    Posted Aug 27, 2012, 1:52 PM by Brian Rabern
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Course Schedule

-- Introduction to ethical issues --
-- God, morality, and objectivity --
-- The nature of right and wrong --
    {{ Paper 1 due (11/02) }}

-- The ethics of animals --
  • 10/31 [Lecture 18] No class
  • 11/05 [Lecture 19: Introduction to animal ethics] read:  Pollan, "The ethics of eating animals" (The Omivore’s Dilemma, Chapter 17)
  • 11/07 [Lecture 20: Film: Food, Inc.] 
    • *homework 4 assigned
  • 11/12 [Lecture 21 Film: Food, Inc.] read: Wallace, ``Consider the lobster"
  • 11/14 [Lecture 22: The basic argument for vegetarianism]  read:  Rachels, "The basic argument for vegetarianism"

      **thanksgiving break** (Eat turkeys and pigs)
  • 11/26 [Lecture 23: Responses to the basic argument] read:  Rachels, "The basic argument for vegetarianism"
  • 11/28  [Lecture 24: An argument by analogy] read: Norcross, "Puppies, pigs, and people" 
  • 12/03 [Lecture 25: Responses to the argument by analogy] read: Norcross, "Puppies, pigs, and people"  
    • *homework 5 assigned*    
  • 12/05 [Lecture 25: Arguments for the permissibility of eating meat] 
  • 12/10 [Lecture 26] read: McMahan, "The meat eaters"
  • 12/12 [Lecture 27] 
      {{ Paper 2 due (12/20) }}