Introduction To Ethics

Western Texas College
Department of Social Sciences

  1. Basic Course Information
    1. Course description - The systematic evaluation of classical and/or contemporary ethical theories concerning the good life, human conduct in society, morals, and standards of value.
    2. Prerequisites - Student should have a proficiency in reading and writing.
  2. Student Learning Outcomes. Upon successful completion of this course, students will:
    1. Read, analyze, and critique philosophical texts.
    2. Define and appropriately use important terms such as relativism, virtue, duty, rights, utilitarianism, natural law, egoism, altruism, autonomy, and care ethics. 
    3. Demonstrate knowledge of major arguments and problems in ethics. 
    4. Present and discuss well-reasoned ethical positions in writing. 
    5. Apply ethical concepts and principles to address moral concerns. 
    6. Apply course material to various aspects of life. 
    7. Discuss ways of living responsibly in a world where people have diverse ethical beliefs. 
  3. Student Learning Outcomes.
    1. The student will become acquainted with the philosophical discipline of Ethics, including several philosophically significant ethical theories.
    2. The student will learn how to apply theories to contemporary moral problems.
  4.  Major Course Requirements
    1. Reading: There will be weekly reading assignments for each week of the course.
    2. Exams:  There will be three to four major exams spaced throughout the semester.
    3. Writing Assignments: There will be multiple writing assignments spaced throughout the semester.
  5. Information on Books and Other Course Materials 
    1. Social and Personal Ethics, 7th Edition, by William H. Shaw. ISBN: 9780495095002
  6. Other Policies:  Please refer to the WTC Course Catalog for the following:
    1. Campus Calendar
    2. Final Exam schedule
    3. How to drop a class
    4. Withdrawal information
    5. Student Conduct/Academic Integrity
    6. Students with disabilities
    7. Departmental Policy in regard to make-up/late work: Late papers will be penalized at 10 points per day.  After 5 days the grade turns to an automatic “0”
  1. Course Organization & Tentative Schedule*



Reading Assignments

Week 1

An Introduction to Ethics.

Chapter 1: The Nature of Morality. Normative Theories of Ethics.

Week 2

Ethical Relativism. 

Chapter 2:JAMES RACHELS: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism.

Week 3

Four Rival Ethical Perspectives.

Chapter 3: ARISTOTLE: Happiness, Function, and Virtue. IMMANUEL KANT: Good Will, Duty, and the Categorical Imperative. JOHN STUART MILL: Utilitarianism. W. D. ROSS: What Makes Right Acts Right?

Week 4

Suicide and Euthanasia.

Chapter 4: RICHARD B. BRANDT: The Morality and Rationality of Suicide. DAN W. BROCK: Voluntary Active Euthanasia. DANIEL CALLAHAN: When Self-Determination Runs Amok. JOHN HARDWIG: Is There a Duty to Die?

Week 5


Chapter 5: JOHN T. NOONAN, JR.: An Almost Absolute Value in History. MARY ANNE WARREN: The Moral Status of Abortion. DON MARQUIS: An Argument That Abortion Is Wrong. JUDITH JARVIS THOMSON: A Defense of Abortion. ROSALIND HURSTHOUSE: Virtue Theory and Abortion.

Week 6

Animals, Vegetarianism, and Environmental Ethics.

Chapter 6: PETER SINGER: The Place of Nonhumans in Environmental Issues. TIBOR R. MACHAN: Do Animals Have Rights? MYLAN ENGEL, JR.: Why You Are Committed to the Immorality of Eating Meat. R. M. HARE: Why I Am Only a Demi-Vegetarian. PETER SINGER: Reply to Hare . HOLMES ROLSTON III: Respect for Life. PETER SINGER: Reply to Rolston.

Week 7

Liberty and Paternalism.

Chapter 7:JOHN STUART MILL: On Liberty. GERALD DWORKIN: Paternalism. DAVID BOAZ: A Drug-Free America—or a Free America? U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY: Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization.

Week 8

Marriage and Sexual Morality.

Chapter 8: JOHN CORVINO: Why Shouldn’t Tommy and Jim Have Sex? MICHAEL PAKALUK: Homosexuality, Gay Marriage, and the Common Good. JACOB M. HELD: Gay Marriage: The Case for Equal Treatment. MIKE W. MARTIN: Adultery and Fidelity. NICHOLAS DIXON: Alcohol and Rape. HELEN E. LONGINO: Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom.

Week 9

Voting and Democracy.

Chapter 9: JOHN STUART MILL: Considerations on Representative Government. LOREN S. LOMASKY and GEOFFREY BRENNAN: Is There a Duty to Vote? EDITORS, HARVARD LAW REVIEW: The Case for Compulsory Voting.

Week 10

Crime, Guns, and Rights.

Chapter 10:DANIEL D. POLSBY: The False Promise of Gun Control. NICHOLAS DIXON: Handguns and Violent Crime. MICHAEL HUEMER: Is There a Right to Own a Gun?

Week 11

Punishment and the Death Penalty.

Chapter 11: WILLIAM H. SHAW: Punishment and the Criminal Justice System. ERNEST VAN DEN HAAG: The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense. JEFFREY H. REIMAN: Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty. U.S. SUPREME COURT: Atkins v. Virginia.

Week 12

The Ethics of War and the Response to Terrorism.

Chapter 12: DOUGLAS P. LACKEY: Pacifism. J. JOSEPH MILLER: Jus ad Bellum and an Officer’s Moral Obligations: Ignorance, the Constitution, and Iraq. AVISHAI MARGALIT and MICHAEL WALZER: Civilians and Combatants. JEFF McMAHAN: Torture in Principle and in Practice.

Week 13

Race, Discrimination, and Affirmative Action.

Chapter 13: BARACH OBAMA, A More Perfect Union. RICHARD A. WASSERSTROM: One Way to Understand and Defend Programs of Preferential Treatment. LOUIS P. POJMAN: The Case Against Affirmative Action. U.S. SUPREME COURT: The University of Michigan Affirmative Action Cases. LUCY WANG, Weight Discrimination.

Week 14

Social Justice.

Chapter 14: EDITORS, HARVARD LAW REVIEW: Never Again Shall A People Starve in a World of Plenty. JOHN ISBISTER: Welfare and Social Justice. ROBERT M. VEATCH: Let the Poor Sell Their Kidneys. D. W. HASLETT: Is Inheritance Justified? U.S. SUPREME COURT: Kelo v. City of New London.

Week 15

Ethics in Business.

Chapter 15: MICHAEL J. PHILLIPS: The Inconclusive Case Against Manipulative Advertising. THOMAS L. CARSON: The Ethics of Sales. MICHAEL DAVIS: Some Paradoxes of Whistleblowing. JOSEPH R. DESJARDINS AND RONALD DUSKA: Drug Testing in Employment.

Week 16

Final Exam


*The above schedule, policies, procedures, and assignments in this course are subject to change.


Last Modified: September 20, 2017