PHIL 120W Introduction to Moral Philosophy

Summer Semester 2011 | DAY


INSTRUCTOR: Jennifer Warriner


  • Exploring Ethics, Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Oxford University Press, 2nd edition


Ethics, broadly construed, studies two important questions: How should we act? What sort of individuals should we be? Philosophers formulate ethical theories, which in turn provide the foundation to offer systematic responses to these questions. In this course, we will consider several ethical theories, including divine command theory, utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, and care ethics. To aid in understanding these theories, we will reflect on ethical problems, such as abortion or euthanasia. In addition, we will consider some interesting positions that challenge the project of formulating "universal" ethical theories in the first place.

This is a writing-intensive course. Students will have the opportunity to improve their writing abilities and to develop effective communication skills. The ability to write clearly and persuasively is a skill that will serve students well in university and beyond. To this end, students will hand in low-stakes writing assignments over the course of the semester as well as write and revise two argumentative essays. All students will be required to submit their essays to, in order to check for plagiarism and (possibly) for anonymous peer review.


  • First paper, with revisions, 15%
  • Second paper, 25%
  • Midterm exam, 20%
  • Final exam, 30%
  • Low-stakes writing assignments, 10%

Philosophy 120 has no prerequisites and may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts and the B requirement.