PHL 1623: Ethics

Matthew M. Daude

Summer 1998

Section 4335

MTWH 4:00-5:55 PM

RGC 314


The ACC catalogue describes this course as "A study of the principles of morality with a critical examination of various ethical theories and their application to contemporary moral issues." Our goal in this course will be to learn and to practice cogent reasoning about moral problems. Consequently, we shall discuss the ethical views of certain philosophers in order to learn how they reasoned about the problems with which they were concerned, and we shall practice such reasoning by applying their theories to moral problems that concern us today. This semester, I plan to focus on the moral and ethical problems raised by sexuality, including such issues as gender identity, reproductive politics, etc.


In the first portion of the course, you will need to purchase a packet of readings on the four theories we will be examining. Readings for the second portion of the course will be announced in class. Each of the handouts will be available on desk reserve or on my homepage (http:\\\~mdaude). If you find that you must miss class, please get the handouts prior to the next class. I expect you to keep current on reading assignments.


The first portion of the course is devoted to the four influential ethical theories (natural law, utilitarianism, contractarianism, and Kantianism). There will be an exam on each of the four theories. The exam will consist of two parts: a short-answer portion which I will give in class. and a take-home portion which will consist of essay questions. The take home portion will involve application of the theory, and you may retake this portion of each test should you be displeased with your effort. The final exam is final in the sense that it comes at the end of the course: you will be expected to reason cogently about moral issues and put your reasoning on paper, rather than simply to reproduce information covered through the semester. The final will be a take-home essay test.

The second portion of the course will be an exploration of various moral problems regarding sexuality. We will discuss this scope of the topic in more detail as the semester proceeds. You will have the opportunity to pursue individual interests within this general heading and share these interests with the class. Each of you will prepare a paper (about five typed, double-spaced pages), the purpose of which is to raise specific issues and questions regarding your topic. I would like you to hand your paper out to the class for discussion, with appropriate readings from your sources. The class discussions should include analysis and evaluation of ethical arguments. (I have no objection to your working together on this assignment, but I do insist on a minimal degree of integrity; discuss the details with me. As always, articles and other references must be credited appropriately in your written work.) You should hand in no fewer than two brief critical reviews (not more than one page) of classmates’ papers.

I expect everyone to participate in class discussion; class participation should be informed comments, observations, etc. By this I mean that everyone should come to class having read and thought about the assignment. Your class participation grade will be based not only on participation in the presentations but also on your evaluation and comments on classmates’ term papers.

Please note that I will not accept work after the stated due date, except by prior agreement. All written work done outside of class must be typed (using a standard font—no italics!) and double-spaced. (Please see my "General Course Policies" for further information.)

Grading Policy

Your grade will be based on the exams, the term paper, the final exam, and class participation. The relative weight will be:

Theory exams (12.5% each)


Final exam


Term paper


Class participation


Due dates for written work will be arranged in class.

Office Hours

2:00-4:00 PM
10:30-11:30 AM
(or by appointment)
ACC office (at RVS)

Course Outline