Ethics, 2016 Spring

T, F 8:30–9:45, Keating Hall 120


Office hours

Course Description

Whether we realize it or not, we make moral judgments every day. And whether we realize it or not, our world in the 21st century plays an important role in these judgments. The main aim of this course is to try to recognize these judgments, understand their background assumptions, and perhaps modify some of them if seems necessary. In the course we will look at some influential answers to ethical questions by Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, who most importantly shaped our post-Enlightenment world today. We will also look at an alternative world-view, that of Virtue Ethics, which will underline the fact that this post-Enlightenment world and its intellectual heritage can itself be questioned.


Page numbers refer to those in Christina and Fred Sommers, eds., Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life (Harcourt Publishers, 1993 and further editions). All other materials are on Blackboard.

Date Readings
Jan. 19 C.S. Lewis, "On the Reading of Old Books"
D.F. Wallace, "2005 Kenyon Commencement Address"
Jan. 22 Dostoyevsky, "Why not Murder?" (471--495)
Jan. 26 Hume, Treatise (sel.)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (203--209)
Jan. 29 Sophocles, Antigone OR
I. Asimov, Robotics (sel.)
Feb. 2 Student presentation 1: The Enlightenment
W. Berry, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer"
Feb. 5 Kant, "What is Enlightenment?"
T. Castle, "Just Don't Pick Up"
Feb. 9 Kant, Groundwork (150--155)
A. Wood, Kantian Ethics (sel.)
Feb. 12 Kant, Groundwork (155--159)
Feb. 19 O. O'Neill, "Kantian Approaches..."
Feb. 23 Student presentation 2: The Nineteenth Century
Feb. 26 B. LeGuin, "The Ones Who Walk Away from the Omelas" (133--139)
R. Schafer-Landau, "Is Happiness All That Matters?"
Mar. 1 J. Bentham, "The Principle of Utility" (101--108)
Mar. 4 P. Singer, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality" (834--844)
W. Berry, "Waste"
Mar. 8 Harris, "Survival Lottery"
B. Williams, "A Critique of Utilitarianism" (123--132)
Mar. 11 Carr, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"
Mar. 15 Paper writing workshop 1
Mar. 29 Student presentation 3: Ancient Athens
Chekhov, "The Bet"
Apr. 1 J. Annas, "Being Virtuous"
Apr. 5 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I
Cascio, "Get Smarter"
Apr. 8 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (215--225)
Apr. 12 M. Slote, "Famine, Affluence, and Virtue"
Turkle, "The Flight from Conversation"
Apr. 15 J. Prinz, "Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response"
M. Midgley, "Trying Out One's New Sword" (174--180)
Apr. 19 M. Nussbaum, "Non-Relative Virtues"
Apr. 22 C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Apr. 26 Final Review
Apr. 29 Paper writing workshop 2