University of Kansas, Fall 2004
Philosophy 160: Introduction to Ethics

Introduction to Ethics

Description: This course provides an introduction to those problems of philosophy that are problems of moral philosophy, or ethics. We will begin by examining certain problems that arise when we try to make moral judgments: problems such as cultural relativism (“What’s right for us is not necessarily right for them”), subjectivism (“What’s right for me is not necessarily right for you”), and the role of religion in morality (e.g., “What’s right is just what God says is right”). Second, we will consider several historically important and still-prominent theoretical approaches to ethics that purport (most of them, anyway) to provide systematic procedures for answering questions about right and wrong. In the third and final part of the course we will consider more concretely a variety of important moral issues such as famine relief, euthanasia, abortion, and genetic engineering. Throughout, we will seek not so much to form judgments about specific moral issues—most of us do that on our own anyway, albeit with varying degrees of certitude—but to improve our thinking about the considerations that may count as reasons for and against the moral judgments we are tempted to make.

Class schedule: lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30–9:20, in 3140 Wescoe Hall (enrollment code 21430); plus a discussion section once a week, with your teaching assistant

Teaching assistants: There are three teaching assistants for this course; here is their contact information:

name e-mail address

discussion sections

office information
    times rooms codes



phone number

Nathan Roser F, 12:30 4008 Wescoe 21436 M and W,
1007 Wescoe 864-2338
F, 2:30 4033 Wescoe 21440
M, 2:30 3092 Malott 21438
M, 3:30 3092 Malott 21441
Bill Simkulet F, 11:30 3097 Wescoe 21434 T and R,
1007 Wescoe 864-2338
M, 11:30 3092 Malott 21432
M, 12:30 3092 Malott 21435
M, 1:30 3092 Malott 21437
Chris Wood R, 11:30 3097 Wescoe 21433 M,
and T,
1006 Wescoe 864-4135
R, 2:30 3092 Malott 21439
R, 3:30 3092 Malott 21442
M, 8:30 3097 Wescoe 21431

My office is in 3070 Wescoe Hall, and I have office hours on Tuesdays from 9:30 to 10:20 and on Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:20. You are also entirely welcome to contact me by e-mail to make an appointment to talk to me at another time.


Here are the factors that will determine your overall grade, and their weights (in percentages):

part of course quizzes papers tests total
meta-ethics 6 8 9 23
normative ethics 7 9 9 25
applied ethics 10 9 19
highest paper and test grades 4 4 8
total 13 31 31 75
assignments weight (percent)
quizzes, papers, and tests 75
discussion section 10
final exam 15
total 100

Further information about these assignments will be provided as the semester progresses.

Work will be graded in accordance with the university’s grading system, as stated in article 2, section 2 of the of the University Senate Rules and Regulations.

In addition, I should note here that I take academic misconduct, especially cheating on tests and plagiarizing papers, extremely seriously, and am generally disposed to impose the harshest permissible penalties when it occurs. To enable you to meet my expectations in this regard and to do so without fear of inadvertently falling short of them, I will provide clear and specific guidance as to what does and does not constitute academic misconduct in advance of tests and when papers are assigned. Meanwhile, you may consult article 2, section 6 of the University Senate Rules and Regulations for university policy in regard to this matter.

If you have a disability for which you may be requesting special services or accommodations for this course, be sure to contact Disability Resources (22 Strong Hall / 864-2620 (V/TTY)), if you have not already done so, and have that office send me a letter documenting the accommodations to which you are entitled. Please also see me privately, at your earliest convenience, so that I can be aware of your situation and can begin to prepare the appropriate accommodations in advance of receiving the letter from Disability Resources.

Book to buy:
Course materials on the web:

Almost all course documents, including this syllabus, will be available on the web site for the course, the URL of which is

(If you don’t want to type in this whole thing, you can stop after ‘utile’—at which point you’ll be at my personal web site—and then follow the links to the web site for this particular course.)

Quizzes, class notes, paper assignments, information about tests, and other useful materials will be posted at this site. The syllabus is also one of the pages at the above site, and since it will probably be revised and elaborated as the course progresses, I encourage you to check it online from time to time, instead of relying on a hard copy.

There are two things for which you will have to use the Blackboard site for this course instead of the web site I’ve set up. The first is checking your grades for this course, since I don’t know how to make a web page that will allow each student to view only his or her own grades. So, to allow you to have online access to your grades, your teaching assistant will be entering your grades into the “online gradebook” at the Blackboard site for this course (if you’re not already logged in, then log in here; once you get to the Blackboard site for the course, click on ‘Tools’, then ‘View Grades’).

The other thing for which you’ll have to use the Blackboard site for this course instead of the web site I’ve set up is entering your answers to thirteen short quizzes in order to supplement and to reinforce your reading of The Elements of Moral Philosophy. I’m using Blackboard for this so that you can take the quizzes online and have your scores automatically entered into the online gradebook. Note, then, that although Blackboard provides a shell for all sorts of course-related documents, I am using it only to provide you with access to your grades and to administer these thirteen quizzes. All other course-related documents, such as this syllabus, notes, and other assignments, will be at the non-Blackboard web site mentioned above.

E-mail distribution list:

I’ve had the KU computer folks set up an e-mail distribution list for the course. In general, I’ll try to mention everything important (whether substantive or procedural) in class. But at times, I may use the e-mail distribution list to send you information that you will be responsible for having or acting on, so it is your responsibility to make sure that you read mail that I send to this list. You can do this by making sure that you (1) have an e-mail address, (2) are registered for the course (because this list is updated every night to reflect current enrollment, taking account of drops and adds), and (3) read your e-mail. There is one complication that you should be aware of: if you have both an Exchange e-mail address (e.g., and a non-Exchange e-mail address (e.g.,, and you prefer to receive e-mail at the latter address, then mail sent to the e-mail distribution list for the course will not necessarily go to it, even if you have registered it with KU as your primary e-mail address. (This is a known problem with the KU distribution-list system.) To deal with this problem, either check your Exchange account as often as your check your non-Exchange account, or arrange for mail sent to your Exchange account to be forwarded to your non-Exchange account. For more information on this problem and how to solve it, see the Exchange Distribution List Primer and look at the answer to question 2: “Some of the people on my list say they’re not getting my list mail. Why?”

Using J-Stor:

Some of the hyperlinks in the schedule below are to articles that are available electronically from the J-Stor online journal archive. J-Stor’s home page——can be accessed by anyone, but the contents of its archives cannot be legitimately accessed without a subscription. KU has a subscription, and you can use this subscription to access the J-Stor archive in either of two ways:

  1. While using a computer with a KU IP address (which I imagine would be any of the on-campus computers—e.g., in the computer labs, in the libraries, etc.), just click on the link for the article you’re interested in. It should appear with no problem.
  2. While using a non-KU computer, follow these steps:
    1. Go to
    2. Unless you are already logged into the KU libraries’ server, you will be confronted with a log-in screen. Log in with your KU username and password.
    3. When the J-Stor screen appears, use “Search” or “Browse” to find the article, based on the bibliographic information supplied below.

Once you have the article on the screen, you will probably want to print it. Look for the gray “PRINT” link at the top of the page you’re viewing, and click on it. You’ll then be given further instructions and links. In order to print J-Stor articles, the computer you’re using needs to have installed on it either (1) the Adobe Acrobat Reader (installed on most or all campus computers, and downloadable free from Adobe; see the link on my home page) or (2) J-Stor’s own printing application (details available with J-Stor’s instructions for printing; click on “Set your printing preferences” after clicking on the “PRINT” link).


August 19 (H):

Part 1: Meta-ethics

August 24 (T):

August 26 (H):

August 31 (T):

September 2 (H):

September 7 (T):

September 9 (H):

September 14 (T):

September 16 (H):

September 21 (T):

September 23 (H):

September 28 (T): test on meta-ethics

Part 2: Normative Ethics

September 30 (H):

October 5 (T):

October 7 (H):

October 12 (T):

October 14 (H): no class (Fall Break)

October 19 (T):

October 21 (H):

October 26 (T):

October 28 (H):

November 2 (T):

November 4 (H):

November 9 (T): test on normative ethics

Part 3: Applied Ethics

November 11 (H):

November 16 (T):

November 18 (H):

November 23 (T):

November 25 (H):

November 30 (T):

December 2 (H):

December 7 (T): test on applied ethics

December 9 (H):

Tuesday, December 14: final exam (8:30–9:30 a.m.)

(The final-exam period is from 7:30 to 10 a.m., but we will start at 8:30 and finish at 9:30. See for KU’s final-exam schedule.)