This course will provide students with an introduction to ethics or moral philosophy. The primary focus will be ethical theories philosophers have developed in their attempts to answer basic questions such as: How does one decide what is the right action? What does it mean to speak of the good life? What is the relation between morality and happiness, whether public welfare or personal satisfaction? When is someone morally responsible for their actions? The course will consider competing ethical theories such as egoism, relativism, virtue theory, deontology, utilitarianism, ethics of care and hedonism. Some consideration will be given to the place of reason and emotions in the determination of what is good or right, as well as to the relation between ethics and social acceptability. The relation between ethics and legality, as well as between ethics and rights, will also be examined. Ethical concepts such as duty, the good person, the right choice and/or action, moral principle, autonomy, imperative, moral agency, permissibility, civil disobedience, paternalism, conscience and social utility will be explained and discussed. The course will consider both "normative" ethical thinking – the kind of thinking anyone does when they consider what is right, good or obligatory; and "critical" (or "meta-ethical") thinking – the kind consideration given when someone provides justification for their notions of right, good or obligation. "Is it always right to tell the truth?" is a normative ethical question. "What is the nature of morality?" is a critical ethical question. Both normative and critical questions will be considered, although the latter will be pursued mainly as a way of clarifying the former.
The course may consider several of the following theories: the approach taken may be historical (through consideration of specific philosophers) or analytical (through consideration of specific theories).
- An introduction to ethics, including: the distinction between normative and critical ethics; the scope and nature of morality; basic concepts in ethics; the distinction between judgments of moral obligation, judgments of moral value, and nonmoral judgments.
- Altruism, Egoism and Hedonism: consideration of ideas such as compassion, beneficence, self-sacrifice, self-love, selfishness, enlightened self-interest, pleasure, means and ends, intrinsic and extrinsic worth.
- Deontology: consideration of ideas such as duty, motive and intention, rule and action, universalizability, obligation, rational freedom, conscience, autonomy and heteronomy, principle, ideals, rights.
- Utilitarianism: consideration of ideas such as public welfare, happiness, consequences, maximization, equality, paternalism, responsibility, samaritanism, rational preference, moral agency, moral point of view, the good/right distinction.
- Virtue Ethics: consideration of ideas such as moral education, community, well-being, character, moral and intellectual virtues, dispositions, the mean, rational choice, weakness of will, reward and punishment, justice.
- Social Contract Ethics: consideration of ideas such as contract, laws of nature/natural law, justice, desert, the discover/decide morality distinction, fairness
- Subjectivism, Relativism and Emotivism: consideration of ideas such as objectivity, personal conviction, scepticism, ethnocentrism, social conformity, custom, cultural pluralism, irrationality, situation ethics, noncognitivism.
- Ethics of Care: consideration of ideas such as relationships, reciprocity, empathy, commitment, intersubjectivity, gender, objectification, hegemony, exploitation, sexism, oppression, patriarchy, impartiality, abstraction.
- Intuitionism: consideration of ideas such as ethical properties, compatibility, conflicting obligations, prima facie duty, syllogism, inference, immediate and mediate, recognition, application.
- Critical/Meta-ethical Theories of Justification: consideration of ideas such as value, axiology, meaning and justification, is/ought distinction, non-naturalism, non-moral, the moral point of view.
Methods of Instruction
The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:
Any combination of lecture and seminar. Parts and/or entire classes may be devoted to formal lectures or to informal discussions. Usually some combination of both is employed to ensure that assigned readings are discussed.
Means of Assessment
Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.
Any possible combination of the following which equals 100%:
|In-class tests, quizzes, short written assignments
|| 20% - 50%
|Written class presentations, essays, final exam
|| 30% - 100%
|Instructor's general evaluation
(May include attendance, class participation,
group work, homework, etc.)
| 0% - 20%
At the conclusion of the course the successful student should be able to:
- Explain and in other ways demonstrate an understanding of the main ethical theories that are covered within the course.
- Critically analyse essays that pertain to ethical theory and to issues pertaining to morality, including the ability to demarcate objective criteria employed in the justification of ethical decisions.
- Apply basic reasoning skills to the topics covered within the course, including the ability to reason from general ethical principles to their application in specific, concrete situations.
- Develop some philosophical appreciation of the significance of a coherent ethical worldview, as well as the importance of morality in both public and private life, including the role of ethics in social institutions.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the competing ethical principles that are derived from the different ethical theories, and especially the ways in which such competing principles result in dissimilar notions about what is right, good or obligatory.
- Formulate their own thinking with respect to the main topics covered within the course.
18 credits or with instructor's consent.
(Recommended: Any of PHIL 1101, 1102, 1121, 1122, 1123, 1151)
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.
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.