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 2019 Courses

Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics
10105 01 (14506)
Sterba
2:00-2:50 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, Abortion and Euthanasia, Human Enhancement, Work and Family Responsibilities, Women’s and Men’s Roles, Affirmative Action, Pornography, Sexual Harassment, Gay and Lesbian Rights, Animal Liberation and Environmental Justice, Punishment and Responsibility, and War, Torture and Terrorism. Requirements: Three papers 5-7 pages (1500-2100 words) e-mail comments on all readings, and participation in class discussions.


Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics
10105 02 (20533)
Jech
9:30-10:45 TR
First Year Students Only

This course will introduce students to ethics and philosophy more generally through a critical investigation of some important approaches to philosophical ethics. This investigation will center on the idea of the good life and the question of what role, if any, reason has in it. Can we discover how to live well by means of reason? Is reason itself an important component of such a good life? Or, on the contrary, are the primary sources of what is worthwhile in life thing like art, religion, or praxis? We will read Plato’s Republic, which presents one of the most important arguments in favor of reason, as well as texts by authors like Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Mellville that dispute the importance of reason. Assignments will include answering weekly discussion questions, short argument analysis papers, and two 4-page papers.


Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics
10105 03 (20536)
Jech
11:00-12:15 TR
First Year Students Only

This course will introduce students to ethics and philosophy more generally through a critical investigation of some important approaches to philosophical ethics. This investigation will center on the idea of the good life and the question of what role, if any, reason has in it. Can we discover how to live well by means of reason? Is reason itself an important component of such a good life? Or, on the contrary, are the primary sources of what is worthwhile in life thing like art, religion, or praxis? We will read Plato’s Republic, which presents one of the most important arguments in favor of reason, as well as texts by authors like Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Mellville that dispute the importance of reason. Assignments will include answering weekly discussion questions, short argument analysis papers, and two 4-page papers.


Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics
10105 04 (20400)

von Eschenbach
3:30-4:45 TR
First Year Students Only

This course will introduce philosophical issues related to ethics and politics with some emphasis on global ethics. Through careful reading of classical texts by important figures in the history of philosophy, students will examine questions such as: What is the good life? What is justice or virtue? What obligation does one have toward others and especially those from other countries? What constitutes a just society? What are the limits of power and the nature and origin of political authority and the status of transnational institutions?