PHIL 120W Introduction to Moral Philosophy

Fall Semester 2013 | Day | Surrey


INSTRUCTOR: B. Barthelemy (bill.barthelemy at


We will begin the course with a critical inquiry into the meaning and justification of moral judgements.  Questions to be considered include: What is ethical/moral relativism and to what extent, if any, is it true? Can God or religion provide the content and justification for our claims in morality?  Then we will examine and evaluate several competing moral theories, viz., ethical egoism, contractarianism, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics.  In our examination we will evaluate answers to at least some of the following questions: Why should I be moral?  Are there any objective moral values? And if so, what are they?  How do we determine what are our moral duties?   How should wealth be distributed in society?  We will consider the arguments of both historical (Plato, Hobbes, Mill, Kant, etc.) and contemporary (Rawls, Nozick, Singer, etc.) philosophers.  Since this is a ‘W’ course (writing intensive), efforts will be made to help students develop their abilities to clearly express and defend their thoughts in writing.  The content or subject matter of that writing will be ethics.  But the skills developed can be applied in any area.


  • Ethical Theory: A Concise Anthology, Geirsson & Holmgren, Eds (Broadview Press)
  • Handouts


  • First essay – 500 words - 15%
  • Second essay plus one revision – 750 words - 20%
  • Third essay – 1500 words - 25%
  • 3-hour Final Exam - 30%
  • Tutorial Participation - 10%

 All papers must be submitted to Failure to do so will result in a failure to complete the course requirements, and may result in failing the course.

Prerequisites: PHIL 120 has no prerequisites, and may be applied to the Certificate in Liberal Studies, the W-requirement, and the Breadth/Humanities requirement. The course is a prerequisite for the upper division philosophy courses needed to complete an Ethics Certificate ( ).