Phil A301

William Jamison


Lecture 1

I begin by explaining how I have set up the course.  There are two parts. The first part covers ethical theories. The second part will use contemporary issues to see how understanding ethical theory makes them more easy to handle.


For part one we will use the text Philosophical Ethics by Tom L. Beauchamp. This updated edition of PE continues the excellent presentation of ethical theory with changes I suspect reflect suggestions from instructors using previous editions. It has the quality and depth from before but shows the advantage of being used in many ethics courses. It is improved as a result. In a relatively small text it is still jam-packed with a great range of vocabulary with sterling excerpts from historical and contemporary philosophers. Theories are described and then exemplified.


For part two we will use the text Matters of Life and Death by Tom Regan. This text offers essays that we will use to initiate the topic discussions as we put the vocabulary from theory to use.


Each class will begin with a lecture and then move into question and answer discussions.


The theme is: An introduction to the great moral thinkers of Western civilization and the use of their ethical systems in an attempt to resolve contemporary issues such as abortion, euthanasia, equal rights, civil disobedience, and professional ethics.

I intend for the course to be challenging. Yet I do not base grading on a bell curve and everyone can receive an A for the course if they do the work. The grades are based on take home essay question tests, a term paper, and daily quizzes. Tests will be posted on my web page in advance. Quizzes will be to take role and insure reading assignments are done. 

Web page: I will describe my interest in using the Internet, my web page and CD. I will not use handouts in class. The syllabus should be the last paper I give you. If you do not have access to these resources at home you may use the computer labs on campus that you have paid for with your technology fee. I cannot use paper to duplicate the power of this technology. If you are a new user of these tools do not be surprised to find the wealth of material overwhelming. I do not expect anyone to become familiar with everything on my pages or the links I have made. However, I think it is clear that future careers will require familiarization with these tools.

I will expect everyone to email me a message containing their name, include the course title, and their email address in the body of the text. I may occasionally email the entire class. I may respond to questions asked in class with email responses. Perhaps someone will ask, “Where did you get that ridiculous idea?” or some such question. I should be able to support such ideas with a link to a source. There may be occasions in class when I may be like Hal, from 2001: A Space Odyssey when he (or should I say it?) says that his mind is going. Later in the evening it may come back again! Please do not make use of the class email addresses for spam or jokes. Please respect one another in using this tool. Email can be a very useful way to continue classroom discussions.


After describing the mechanics of the course I should discuss several initial topics:

1.      Faith and Reason

2.      The current concern with Ethics in America.

  1. Our starting position: the Postmodern (or neo-Pragmatist) view. Metanarratives, language games, pluralism, social contruction, and the nature of knowledge may all be topics we will begin to discuss.
  2. You may also want to visit my Quest. I will describe cognitive maps that I use there.


The next lecture is Morality and Moral Philosophy, pp. 3 - 19 in Philosophical Ethics.

This page is maintained by William S. Jamison. It was last updated August 14, 2012. All links on these pages are either to open source or public domain materials or they are marked with the appropriate copyright information. I frequently check the links I have made to other web sites but each source is responsible for their own content.