PHILO 230 - Honors Introduction to Moral Philosophy

1. Description

Philosophical issues arising in and about morality constitute an important part of everyday life. This course introduces the student to these philosophical issues. It will 1) cover general philosophical questions such as: What are theories of morality are available to us? What is the relation of morality to religion? Is moral truth universal or relative to cultures? and 2) examine the theories of classical authors: Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, John Rawls, etc. It will also 3) seek to show how philosophical reflection on morality can lead to a better understanding and help develop a critical approach to issues that are involved in contemporary debates. These issues are remarkably varied: war, capital punishment, abortion, genetic engineering, love, sex, marriage, family, property, poverty, liberty, drugs, pornography, multiculturalism, etc. Topics will be approached on the basis of the study of a selection of classical and contemporary readings.

2. Objectives

The course is neither aimed at defending a theory of morality nor any moral position in particular. It is aimed at a better understanding of what is a moral question and what is a moral position in general. There is a wide range of moral theories and positions available. A better understanding of these theories and positions, whether they reflect one’s position or not, is an important step in the formation of one’s own moral judgement and critical thinking in general. In general, when one adopts a moral position, one has reasons – and indeed philosophical, although sometimes non-explicit reasons! – to do so. Understanding other philosophers and ordinary people’s reasons to think the way they do, and thus their philosophical commitments on certain moral issues, especially if they are different or novel, may help one form better, stronger arguments in favour of one’s own ideas. In this respect, the concrete objective of the course is to provide students with argumentative and critical tools to support their personal opinions on moral issues.