Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics & Politics

This course introduces students to philosophy with a special focus on issues in moral and political philosophy. Topics to be discussed may include justice, the nature of the good, different conceptions of happiness, virtue, ethical theory, moral relativism, feminist ethics, liberty, equality, and the foundations of rights, as well as particular applied topics in moral and political philosophy (such as economic justice and the ethics of war). 

Fall 2020 Course

Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics - ONLINE CLASS 
10105 01 (14150)
Sterba
12:50-1:40 MWF
First Year Students Only

This course will begin by considering three challenges to a reason-based morality: 1) It’s all relative, 2) It’s better to be an egoist, 3) Morality is determined by religion not reason. Assuming we can overcome these challenges - if we can’t, we will stop the course right here - but if we can, we will then evaluate three traditional moral perspectives: 1) Kantian morality (It is all about doing your duty), 2) Utilitarian morality (It is all about maximizing utility) and 3) Aristotelian morality (It is all about being virtuous) to see if one of them is better than the others. That accomplished, we will then take up three challenges to a traditional conception of morality: 1) the Feminist challenge (Traditional morality is biased against women), 2) the Environmental challenge (Traditional morality is biased against nonhuman living beings), and 3) the Multicultural challenge (Traditional morality is biased against non-Western cultures). Assuming we think some defensible form of morality survives these challenges (We will take a vote), we will then go on to apply that morality to the solution of a number of following problems: the Distribution of Income and Wealth, Distant Peoples and Future Generations, Work and Family Responsibilities, Women’s and Men’s Roles, Affirmative Action, Pornography, Sexual Harassment, Gay and Lesbian Rights, Animal Liberation and Environmental Justice, and the Ethics of Climate Change. Requirements: Three papers 5-7 pages (1500-2100 words) e-mail comments on all readings, and participation in class discussions.