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PHILOS 2YY3 Introduction To Ethics

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Violetta Igneski

Email: igneski@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23462


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

Course Format

There will be two lectures each week.  In addition, there will be one tutorial meeting each week.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to ethics and moral philosophy.  We will begin with issues in meta-ethics such as discussing concepts of the good, the right and virtue.  What is it to behave in the right way or in the best way?  Is there an objective sense of right conduct?  What reasons do we have to act morally?  We will then move to normative ethics where we will explore various moral theories that attempt to articulate how it is we ought to behave or the kinds of persons we ought to be.  Specifically, we will examine utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, feminist ethics and virtue ethics and consider some classic objections raised against each.  Finally, we will turn to applied ethics.  Here we will think about our obligations to the needy, the morality of abortion and the ethics of war.


The main aim of this course is not merely to memorize a bunch of historical and philosophical facts (though we will do this too), but rather to acquire skills and tools for thinking about our actions in relation to the actions of others with whom we live and interact.  What is it to be a good person?  What is the right thing to do?  What kinds of obligations do we have to others?  What is it to live a good life?  I can’t promise that we will answer all of these questions, but I can promise that we will think about them deeply and systematically in order to appreciate their force and significance.


Course Objectives


By the end of this course students will have met the following objectives:


  1. Be able to give reasons both in support of and against ethical relativism and ethical objectivism.
  2. Will have a general understanding of the main moral theories;
  3. Be able to raise objections to each of the main moral theories and consider potential responses to the objections;
  4. Be able to appreciate and engage in several of the debates in applied ethics;
  5. Have carefully worked through historical and contemporary texts in moral philosophy;
  6. Have strengthened their analytical and critical skills through practice in writing and orally communicating their views;
  7. Learned to clearly articulate their own views and to support them with arguments;
  8. Appreciate the complexity of the philosophical issues in moral philosophy.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Pojman, Louis.  Moral Philosophy: A Reader, Fourth Edition.  (Hackett Publishing, 2009).  Available in the campus bookstore.

For additional readings (i.e., Feminist ethics), check Avenue to Learn.


Method of Assessment:

Course Requirements

Students are required to do assigned readings, attend class, attend tutorials and participate in class and tutorial discussions.  In addition there will be a mid-term test, an essay and a final exam.

1.  Mid-Term Test  (in class)

Value: 20%

2.  Essay (includes first draft, self-evaluation and peer-evaluation):

  1. Length: 1500-2000 words
  2. Value: 5% for first draft and peer evaluation, 5% for self evaluation and 30% for final draft (total 40%)

3.  Tutorials

      Attendance: 5%

Participation: 5%

Total Value: 10%

4.  Final Exam

Value: 30%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Other Course Information: