Description of Course Goals and Curriculum
Introduction to Moral Philosophy builds in students a solid understanding of current controversies in the realm of moral philosophy: topics such as determinism, moral praise, free will, intentionality, and utilitarianism. The aim of the course is to help students develop a thorough intellectual framework for dealing with complex moral and philosophical issues. Most emphasized in classes and precepts are ongoing debates that are central to the study of morality. Students work to examine the contrasting viewpoints of prominent philosophers and to construct their own arguments. The course is structured into three main units which are covered sequentially: normative ethics, metaethics, and practical ethics. The course includes two 3-5 page papers and in-class midterm and final written exams.
Learning From Classroom Instruction
The bi-weekly course lectures are concise and to the point, and lecture slides are made available online. The material covered in lecture is essentially a summary of relevant readings from the course and elaboration of philosophical arguments and viewpoints. It can be very helpful to organize class notes by philosophers and authors since there are only a handful of central theories covered in the course. Particularly valuable are weekly precepts, in which participation is the key to success. Although each preceptor handles their group slightly differently, the objective is to engage the small groups of students to think through forming their own opinions and philosophical arguments utilizing the readings and lecture material. Precepts provide a vital opportunity to flesh out argumentative strategies and practice thinking critically about philosophy and forming objections. The assigned readings are necessary for a thorough understanding of philosophical viewpoints, and for the two course papers.
Learning For and From Assignments
For the two course papers, students are asked to analyze philosophical debates about self- termination or abortion and utilitarianism. Course readings are essential for grasping these areas and citing relevant authors whose arguments are drawn from in the papers. In preparation for exams, an excellent strategy is small-group discussions with classmates. Since the exams include exclusively open-ended questions, practicing navigating an argument, forming a thesis, and handling objections is quite useful.
As for external resources, online articles, essays, and videos can be very helpful in deepening understanding of key philosophical concepts. External resources are useful but not necessary for this course.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
Taking this course, students can expect to build a solid foundation of philosophical concepts and gain familiarity with the kind of logic and argumentation involved in the field. The course is intended for and accessible to students who lack a background in philosophy and is a very manageable time commitment. I walked away from this class feeling better-equipped to think about important moral issues. Most importantly, I felt that the course had helped me gain a better sense of what mattered to me and how I made decisions.