Summer2 2013 Ethics Syllabus

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Goals of the Course

  1. Understand, integrate, and critically assess 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. Acquire the analytic and expressive skills central to the philosophical study of ethics.

Course Description

This introductory ethics course surveys traditional ethical theories using both primary and secondary philosophical literature, and major contemporary research in moral psychology, anthropology, and biology. Throughout the course we consider applied ethical problems, such as the nature of racism, international justice, and political and religious difference. In addition to standard readings, we read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, Franz de Waal, Morally Evolved, Peter Singer and others on international justice and obligations to the poor. The course also addresses ethical issues in political and religious difference. Total expected study time: 85 hours. Total pages: 754.

Reading List

  • Ariely, Dan. 26 May 2012, Why We Lie. Wall Street Journal (New York).
  • Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics, Books 1-2. [Internet Clasics Archive]. 19 August 2010.
  • de Waal, Franz. 2006. Morally Evolved: Primate Social Instincts, Human Morality, and the Rise and Fall of "Veneer Theory". in Primates and Philosophers , editors Stephen Macedo and Josiah Ober , 1-59. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Haidt, Jonathan. 2012. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon.
  • Hinman, Lawrence. 2003. Chapter 8: Justice. in Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach Lawrence Hinman. United States: Tompson Wadsworth.
  • Rachels, James and Stuart Rachels. 2012. Chapters 6-10: Social Contract Theory, Utilitarianism, Kantianism. in The Elements of Moral Philosophy James Rachels and Stuart Rachels, 82-146McGraw Hill.
  • Singer, Peter. 1975. Chapter 1: About Ethics. Practical Ethics, 1-15.
  • ________. 1975. Chapter 2: Equality and Its Implications. Practical Ethics, 14-39.
  • ________. 2006. Morality, Reason, and the Rights of Animals. in Primates and Philosophers, editors Stephen Macedo and Josiah Ober, 140-61. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Singer, Peter. 1975. Rich and Poor. Practical Ethics, 14-39.


Assessment will include evaluation of online threaded conference discussion, small group chats transcripts, and final essays. Student may choose to write an extended paper on an applied or theoretical topic.