Safely file this document for the duration of this semester. The philosophical study of ethics relates to a systematic assessment of how we ought to act. This course will introduce the student to some key concepts of ethical theory and how to apply these concepts for normative decisions in everyday life. Our target is to evaluate one's perceptions, beliefs, desires, and fears; and to find a key for understanding our participation in life. Rights, justice, fairness, but also authenticity, personhood, and a sense of humanity – these are real issues for each person to reflect upon, in an on-going process of character building, and in appreciation of what it means to be a human being. The course does not provide ready-made answers for ethical queries, but it enhances one's capacity for informed judgment on value related decision-making. Since the systematic assessment of ethical values is challenging to your worldviews, it is necessary to attend all classes and it is your responsibility to be informed about classroom activities. Four major ethical theories will be addressed in the lectures: virtue ethics, deontological ethics, utilitarian ethics, and existentialism. Their applied relevance is demonstrated in focus-group debates and is subject for class discussions. Cell phones must be turned off during session. No computers. [Satisfies GE category C 3: Philosophy and Values.]

Key for regular semester courses

Midterm Exam 25%, Final Exam 25%, Panel Presentation 20%, Panel Summary 10%, Participation and Relevant Contributions to in-class Activities 20%, from a total of 400 pts.

Required Text

History of Ethics, Volumes 1 and 2 by Vernon J. Bourke, Axios Press, 2008.

Course Requirements

The final grade is based on the five performance aspects listed above under "key".

Midterm and Final Exam
For the most part there will be a short essay from a selection of topics, plus a section of picky multiple choice questions over readings and lectures; questions will relate to historical events, to concepts, and to key terminology.

Panel Presentation
Each student will join a panel group for exploring a selected topic (1 hour). Each panel will receive specific guidelines and instructions on how to research a given topic. Each panelist will present a philosophically sound report (10 minutes sharp), then the entire group will lead a joint discussion with the class (20 minutes). The discussion will focus on applied dimensions of the project. Primary target is the application of ethical theory for every-day-life situations. Coordinate your presentation with the other panelists for coherency. If you miss your presentation day; you will be on permanent standby (5 penalty points for each non-performance). Panelists are expected to demonstrate responsibility by communicating with each other to secure a successful performance.

Panel Summary
Prior to your presentation (no extension!) you will submit a typed summary (350 words) in narrative format, clearly specifying what it is that the class should have learned from you, and why this is relevant. This summary is not an outline of your presentation or your actual presentation! Instead, you will state your perspective on the topic and your reasons in support of it. Format: 1 page, typed in 12 pt. Times font, no cover page or clear cover, your name and topic stated on top of the page. Late submissions result in a deduction of additional 5 points per calendar day in addition to the 5 points for not submitting the summary prior to your presentation.

You will receive up to 40 points for attendance and up to 40 points for active participation. Two absences are free, all additional absences will result in a deduction of 4 points per day.

There are no make-ups for any of the exams, except in very severe cases of emergency. In such a case, a message must be left in my office or by voice mail within 48 hours after the due date. No message -- no make-up.  There are no extra credit assignments.

It is helpful to schedule approximately 4 hours of active studying per week outside the classroom to receive a CR or a C grade. For every grade step add two additional hours per week.

Grade requirements and description of grades

F failure 199 pts. and below, or with proven plagiarism.

D barely passing 200 pts.

C average 250 pts. Indicates adequate fulfillment of requirements, and average, but not notable work.

B very good 310 pts. Is earned by fulfilling the course requirement with more than adequate scholarship.

A- outstanding 350 pts.

A outstanding 375 pts., To earn an A or A-, the student must demonstrate outstanding scholarship above and beyond fulfilling all the course requirements.

CR same as grade C- (230 pts.) or better.

W Withdrawal prior to the posted deadline.

I Incomplete. Only in exceptional cases. Has to be removed within one calendar year.


Reading assignments must be completed before the class period on which day they are listed. Be patient with your reading skills. Continuous practice of reading will improve both your ability to focus your thoughts as well as strengthen your reading performance.

At the conclusion of this course, the student will have:

1. conducted an overview of the major ethical theories from Socrates to Rawls, and become acquainted with some great figures of Western ethical theory.

2. learned the basic concepts of the ethical lexicon and demonstrated familiarity with the main topics of this field.

3. improved communication skills and research ability in philosophy.

4. reflected upon the meaning of life, vitality of nature, and everyday personal questions about life, love, happiness, justice, success, and death.

5. achieved a higher appreciation for the vastness and complexity of philosophical issues, and developed the necessary intellectual honesty and modesty when dealing with these issues. with these issues.

Note:  (1) Students with disabilities must communicate all requests for special accommodations during the first three days of class. (2) All exams can be reviewed throughout one calendar year and will be recycled thereafter. (3) Preferred contact is office visit, then phone message, lastly by e-mail <>. (4) Please visit the following hyperlinks for SSU policy information: Grade Appeal Procedures Policy, Cheating and Plagiarism Policy, Campus Diversity Vision Statement.