Ethics Syllabus

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Course Syllabus for Dr. Alfino's Philosophy 301 Course

  • Instructor: Dr. Mark Alfino
  • Course Title: Philosophy 301: Introductory Ethics
  • Contact Information and office hours at
  • Course Description: This course provides an introduction to contemporary ethical theory.
  • Course Learning Outcomes: See below
  • Course Schedule, Graded Activity, Texts, and Assignments: See course wiki

University Core Outcomes for this Course

  • After completing this course, students will be able to: 1. argue persuasively why each of us is responsible for having ethical concerns about and commitments to the good of others, 2. resolve moral problems consistently, drawing on resources (e.g., conceptions of human nature and of human community) of one of the ethical theories or traditions studied, and 3. respectfully advocate for their critically assessed moral commitments and perspectives within a diverse community.

Goals of the Course

Some activities and goals which will move us toward these outcomes include:

  1. Understanding, integrating, and critically assessing theories from a wide range of disciplines on the nature of ethics (e.g. philosophy, moral psychology, anthropology, biology).
  2. To use this integrated understanding to gain insights on the nature of racism, international justice, and political and religious difference.
  3. Developing analytic and expressive skills central to the accomplishment of learning outcomes and course goals.

Assignments directed toward these goals and outcomes

  • All of the assignments in this course are directed toward the course research questions, course goals, and course learning outcomes. Clicker quizzes assess reading knowledge upon entry to each class. Early non-quiz assignments are based on informational and narrowly reflective study questions which emerge from each class. They do not directly count toward the student's grade. These involve paragraph length answers to study questions which are then peer reviewed and review by the professor. The rubric for these assignments remind students of key features of effective and persuasive writing and basic elements of argued responses. In the early weeks of the course, instruction on philosophical method and argument are provided along with content instruction and small group discussion to help students develop articulate college level communication.
  • For example, an early assignment (Weeks 2-3) might involve a response to the following two study questions:
What picture of the mind does Jonathan Haidt leave us with?
What is the problem of relativism (include forms of relativism and subjectivism) and what is Singer's argument against them?
  • The first would be paired with a rubric focusing on accuracy of description of someone theoretical content, while the second would involve a rubric which added elements for argument presentation and assessment skills.
  • The midterm essay, 5-7 page paper, and and final essay build on the basic skills of the early writing assignments, but add rubric items related to the three learning outcomes. A paper assignment and final exam essay repeat this rubric. The paper assignment specifically involves a topic which invites the student to "resolve a moral problem". The use of peer review of early assignments and the paper address the third learning outcome.

Explanation of how the course assignments meet the core learning outcomes for the course

  • The assignments meet the three core learning outcomes by building on skills in order of complexity. The learning outcomes target advances skills in persuasive argumentation, problem resolution, and respectful advocacy. Students will benefit from writing and basic argumentation excercise early in the course, using peer reviewed study questions. These component skills will then be incorporated into the more integrative assignments of the midterm essay, paper, and final essay, which directly target the learning outcomes' emphasis on argumentation, problem solving, and advocacy.

Writing Enriched Course Learning Outcomes

  • After completing this course, students will be able to: 1. Students will be able to demonstrate competency in formal and informal writing specific to the discipline in which the writing occurs. 2. Students will be able to integrate appropriate primary and secondary research in their writing by the means customarily used in the discipline. 3. Students will be able to incorporate feedback received during an intensive revision process.

Assignments that support the Writing Enriched Course Learning Outcomes

  • Points 50-70% of grade. "Points" includes small written assignments, peer review writing, and back evaluations. Specific assignments including, for example:
  • Everyday Ethics Prompts 4 400 words assignments, with minimal peer review.
  • Evolution and Social Behavior Question: 600 word writing exercise with peer review
  • How WEIRD is morality? 600 word writing exercise with peer review
  • Fair Contract Case 600 word writing exercise with peer review
  • Final Essay 2-3 pages 10-20%. Professor graded. No peer review.
  • Justified Partiality Position 15-25% Paper 3-4 pages, with rough draft review process and peer review process.
  • Depending upon student choices for optional assignments, between 80-100% of the grade for the course is based on writing. Many optional assignments also include writing.


  1. I do accept late work, but you must complete all work in the course to receive a grade.
  2. I have a flexible attendance policy.
  3. You must disclose any work that you are turning in for this course that you are submitting or have submitted for other courses.
  4. You must comply with all university policies concerning academic honesty, sexual harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct.