Spring 2013 Ethics Syllabus

Goals of the Course

  1. To understand, use, and critically evaluate standard ethical theories such as deontology, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics.
  2. To review and consider a variety of contemporary meta-ethical theories such as evolutionary ethics, moral psychology, and game theory.
  3. To develop your own view of the nature of ethics and a model for ethical analysis and decision-making.
  4. To develop a theory about our moral obligations (if any) to provide international relief and development aid.

Course Description

This introductory ethics course surveys traditional ethical theories using both primary and secondary philosophical literature, and surveys major contemporary research in moral psychology, evolutionary ethics, and the application of game theory to ethics. Throughout the course we consider applied ethical problems, culminating in a focus on ethical issues in international aid and development. For theoretical background, we read selections from Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Rawls, as well as contemporary writers such as Franz de Waal (Primates and Philosophers), Jonathan Haidt, and Daniel Dennett. For development ethics we will read essays by Peter Singer and his critics, some virtue ethics, and contemporary critics and advocates of international aid, such as Sachs, Easterly, and Moyo.


Students will be assessed on their achievement of the course goals through the following methods: