Instructor: Johann Frick
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course is a broad introduction to concepts of moral philosophy. It is divided into 3 sections, devoted to normative ethic, metaethics, and practical ethics respectively. Normative ethics deals with concepts of right/wrong and good/bad, metaethics examines the philosophical underpinnings of moral thought and practice, and practical ethics looks at various examples of actual ethical issues (e.g. eating meat, abortion, suicide, etc.)
Learning From Classroom InstructionLectures are twice a week with Dr. Frick and have 1-3 assigned readings each. It is good to at least skim the readings ahead of time to understand the general topics so that you’re ready for Dr. Frick’s more in depth analysis during lecture (although he starts with an overview of the reading). Precepts are hit or miss depending on who you get. Use them as an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion on a topic of particular interest to you with your classmates and preceptor for potential use on a paper or exam essay. The best way to keep current in this class is to skim readings and pay attention in lecture as Dr. Frick does a good job of explaining the readings and his powerpoints give a good overview of concepts you need to know as a review.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe only assignments in this class are weekly discussion posts on the readings (which are easy to come up with even if you’ve barely done the readings) and two papers. The hardest part about the papers is coming up with a unique argument to make and figuring out how to defend it given the short word limit. I would recommend outlining your argument and supporting structure ahead of time and discussing it with your preceptor to make sure it is sound before you start writing. Philosophy is not very concerned with superfluous verbiage or making eloquent sentences so the writing part is actually very easy, the hard part is building a solid argument you can defend. For the midterm and final, the essays you need to write are short and to the point, and you have a lot of choices, so I would pick a bunch of the readings to dive more in depth into to prepare yourself, rather than trying to know all of them. Have a general idea of the concepts for all of them, but especially for the midterm, if you can go really in depth and have some illustrative examples in mind for some of them, it’ll be easy to write the essays in the short time allotted and do well. For the final, there are a lot more choices so you need to be a little more selective in your studying of the readings. Frick’s powerpoints are a great place to start, and if you can’t come up with any good arguments/counterexamples on your own, look up the readings and find some online to have ready to use on the exam (e.g. look up objections to Kant’s categorial imperative).
External ResourcesFor some of the more famous philosophers like Kant and Mill, there are a variety of online resources available to help prepare yourself even if you haven’t done the reading. There are some good Crash Course videos on some of the philosophers major theories with good examples and objections you can use and there are many websites from other universities courses, etc, that can help in finding material about the various philosopher’s works to use on an exam. Do this to prepare for the midterm and final as most people will only be looking at what is presented in the lecture slides and using outside material will easily make your essay stand out (just make sure what you’re using is right!).
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis course serves as a great introduction to moral philosophy and as an introduction to the art of philosophical reasoning in general. After taking this class, you might find yourself more interested in philosophy than you initially thought and may be interested in taking more PHI classes. Even if you decide to pdf, you can still get a lot out of the class and it is worth the time you need to invest in it to learn something about philosophy.
Introduction to Moral Philosophy