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Values and Contemporary Issues

Course Code: PHIL 1102
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

How can we develop answers to questions of value in our complex age? How can we think more clearly and humanly about issues confronting our lives and our society? How can we live as aware beings who are genuinely responsive to our own needs and to the needs of others? This course considers such questions by exploring the moral and human issues involved in such topics as abortion, capital punishment, racial and sexual discrimination, individual liberty, the “moral majority”, capitalism, and technology. The course also pursues such questions by endeavouring to lead the student to an understanding of the more deeply rooted philosophical problems which give rise to our perplexities concerning such moral issues. This course will serve as a foundation for further work in philosophy (Note: the format and topics may vary. Some course sections may focus more extensively on issues in medical ethics, others on issues pertaining to the relation of morality to the law, and still others on different topics. Therefore, individual instructor’s course descriptions should be consulted.)

Course Content

  1. The course will primarily involve an examination of current ethical issues which are of general interest to the student.  For example:
    • the morality of taking human life: abortion, euthanasia, suicide, capital punishment, war;
    • the relation of morality to the law: the “moral majority”, paternalism, civil libertarianism, pornography, drugs, censorship;
    • the just or unjust treatment of sentient beings, e.g., racism, sexism, affirmative action, animal liberation, poverty and  famine;
    •  the direction of culture and civilization: technology, T.V. and violence, eugenics, education and indoctrination, ecology, capitalism, socialism.
  2. Through the examination of the types of issues in #1, students will learn the general dialogical method of developing their own moral perspective and will be acquainted with various philosophical methods for confronting moral issues (e.g., analytic, existential, phenomenological, pragmatic).
  3. Through the examination of the types of issues in #1, students will also become acquainted with:
    • different types of posture: in ethics (e.g. subjectivism/objectivism, egoism/altruism, individualism/authoritarianism, relativism/universalism) as they relate both to personal and social morality;
    • different ethical theories, e.g., utilitarian, deontological, virtue, existential, and situational; and
    • different kinds of levels of ethics, e.g., descriptive, normative and meta-ethical.

Methods of Instruction

The course will be taught by a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.  Class participation will be encouraged throughout all aspects of the course.  As dialogue is essential to philosophical growth, time will be allowed for in-depth, “give and take” discussions between individual students and the instructor and between individual students and other students, as well as for more general class discussions.  Students may be invited to participate in class-instruction, if they so desire, by giving seminars.  Some audio-visual materials, focussing on particular ethical problems, or the understanding of such problems, will be used.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.

Any combination of the following totalling 100%:

Test, Quizzes, and Short Assignments      20% - 50%    
Written Class Presentations, Essays, Essay Exams      20% - 60%
Instructor’s General Evaluation
(e.g., participation, attendance, 
homework, improvement, extra-credit, group work)
      0% - 20%

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student should be able to:

  1. Think in a meaningful way about some of the major contemporary ethical issues.
  2. Learn how to develop personal philosophical positions in relation to some of these issues.
  3. Examine some contemporary theorizing about these issues by moral philosophers who have wrestled with them and attempted to formulate solutions in a rational and critical manner.
  4. Become familiar with some of the fundamental philosophical problems which underlie these issues, through the reading of classical and modern philosophical theories.
  5. Recognize that critical thinking is imperative to handle the complexities inherent in modern moral issues and that simple answers and thoughtless actions are dangerous responses.

course prerequisites

None - Although PHIL 1101 is recommended

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.