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Instructor: Dr.

Mark Cohen
Web Site:

PHL 308
Introduction to Ethics

Text: Classics of Moral and Political Theory Fourth or Fifth Edition

Edited by Michael L. Morgan

Objectives: To obtain the basic philosophical tools to help the students apply traditional
ethical concepts to contemporary ethical situations.

The purpose of the class is not necessarily to supply the student with fail-safe guidelines, to
decide what is right or wrong in any situation of ethical significance, but rather to gain an
understanding of a number of rational ethical principles not based on intuition, emotion or
religion. The hope is that an understanding the ethical theories we will study will help us
make sense of the moral significance of a number of contemporary public policy issues we
will examine. In addition, the long-term objective is to give students a better basis for making
ethical decisions in their own lives.

The class will:

Introduce the student to the basic vocabulary of ethics

Introduce the student to some of the major questions of ethics and to challenge our
common sense approach to morality
Familiarize the student with some of the major figures in the history of ethical thought.
Stimulate serious thought and critical examination of contemporary issues from the
historical perspectives afforded by some of the great works of philosophy

The traditional ethical theories we will study will include those of Plato, Aristotle, J.S. Mill,
G.E Moore, Kant and others. The issues in applied ethics we will examine will include
genocide, abortion, cloning, care for the environment and capital punishment.


Please check each weeks module class for the weeks assignments. Also, please
check class announcements every time you log on (at least four times a week) for
important information and updates

The assignments include readings from the required text, a number of handouts which will
be accessible and printable from either from links within the course or from my website. You
will be responsible for accessing and reading the materials that I will put online for you in a
timely fashion. I will, of course announce in class when they are due.

It is imperative that you do the readings as assigned.

You will be expected to express and defend your point of view in this class. You have the
right to criticize the views of others in this classincluding my views. But this must be done
when appropriate and in a manner consistent with academic civility. Blatant acts of
classroom incivility, personal attacks, insults or emotional tirades will not be tolerated.

Grades will be based on a combination of factors. There will be regular assignments of a

number of Qs and As, taking the form of in-depth essay assignments. They will require an
understanding of the texts and other materials as well as the ability to analyze the concepts
presented there so that you can apply them to specific examples and case studies.
Participation in class discussions is a requirement and will influence your grade.

The Qs and As will count for at least 75% of your final grade. Your participation, both quantity
and quality are valued, in class discussions will count for the remainder of your final grade.

For the Qs and As, your work will be evaluated based on how well you answer the question,
to what extent you support your position with reasoned arguments, how clearly you express
yourself and the creativity of your response.

Every week I will assign one or more discussion topics to help you think about the readings
creatively and so that you can exchange viewpoints, experiences and insights. You are
expected to make one response, of a minimum of 150 words, to the question(s) asked in my
initial post, as well as a minimum of two responses to your classmates. Your grade for your
discussions will be based on the extent of your participation (the more the better), how well
reasoned your contributions are and the extent to which you stay on topic.

Your grade for your discussions will be based on the extent of your participation (the more
the better), how well reasoned your contributions are

Grading Scale: I dont grade on a curve. If your score is within .5 of the next highest grade, I
reserve the option to assign the higher grade but this is not a promise and will be used only
in exceptional circumstances based on the entire body of work in the class.

A 94-100 C+ 77-79
A- 90-93 C 73-76
B+ 87-89 C- 70-72
B 83-86 D 65-69
B- 80-82

Special Needs

If you are a student with documented disabilities who may need accommodations and who
have any emergency information I should know of, or who need special arrangements
should make an appointment with me as early as possible, no later than the first week of the

Part of my job is to help you in this course. If you are having problems with the course,
please let me know as soon as possible. Im always available to help you but I have to know
about the problem while it is going on not later when time and options are fewer. You can
reach me at anytime by email, either through Blackboard or my personal email address,
which is listed above.