Introduction to Philosophy: Elementary Ethics

Course Number: PHL 202
Transcript Title: Intro to Phil: Elem Ethics
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: June 7, 2017
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0


MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121.

Course Description

Investigates two basic questions of human existence: What is the best way for people to live, and what does it mean to be a good person? Introduces the three main fields of ethics: meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics sources for thinking that helps determine right and wrong conduct. Prerequisites: MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Reflect critically upon their assumptions, values and mental models associated with their personal philosophy of life.
  2. Read philosophy critically.
  3. Apply cognitive competence of the major philosophical thinking on ethical behavior.
  4. Take measure of the gap between what we do and what we ought to do.
  5. Recognize and reflect on the interconnectedness of and the historical development of moral ideas in order to be conscious of the historical context of moral argumentation and its significance in our culture and the culture of others.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

In-depth 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)


2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)
3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)


4. Appreciate cultural diversity and constructively address issues that arise out of cultural differences in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment strategies may include the following:

  1. Formative assessment essays demonstrating accurate understanding of assigned reading.
  2. Weekly collaborative learning activities that entail the development of critical thinking skills by surfacing questions and reactions to the text.
  3. Journal writing in response to prompts designed to produce personal reflection and application of morals to everyday life.
  4. Reflection paper on a movie or book whose character(s) embodies one of the issues covered in class.
  5. Brief Summative assessment: Final exam

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Themes, Concepts, Issues

The three main fields of ethics, meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics are vast, complex and span centuries of thinking. An instructor can survey all three fields with an extremely light overview or focus on one field with its sub-categories.   For example, virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. Its focus on moral character can be contrasted to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). An instructor can provide a comprehensive survey of historically significant philosophers who have written on morals and ethics (including, but not limited to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Mill, and Nietzsche).  A third is a thematic approach where there is a topical review of issues like biomedical, business, political and social. Any and all of these thematic and conceptual approaches are capable of being connected to course outcomes and should be selected based on the instructor’s expertise and preference. A sample of standard ethical dilemmas include but are not exhausted by the following topics:

  1. Key Debates in Ethics
  2. Natural Law
  3. Utilitarianism
  4. Kantian Ethics
  5. Christian Ethics
  6. Abortion
  7. Euthanasia
  8. Genetic Engineering
  9. Just War Ethics
  10. Meta-ethics
  11. Freewill and Determinism
  12. The Nature and Role of Conscience
  13. Virtue Ethics
  14. Environmental and Business Ethics
  15. Sexual Ethics

Competencies and Skills

Students will learn to:

  1. Comprehend philosophical writings dealing with morality.
  2. Paraphrase, illustrate, and explain ideas contained in philosophical writings dealing with morality.
  3. Critique and challenge philosophical ideas dealing with morality.