Introduction to Ethics

Emory University


Introductions to ethics usually stage a confrontation between different ethical theories. Virtue ethics, utilitarianism, and deontology are defined, compared, and contrasted. Yet the reasons why one would hold such a theory or commit oneself to one of these positions often remain obscure. This course will introduce students to the different kinds of ethical reflection that stand behind the theories. By focusing on different ways of thinking about the “good” life and the “right” way to live, this course will examine different conceptions of ethics, the reasons why different philosophers take different positions on ethical questions, and the theoretical and practical consequences of their views.


Students will be expected to write two 5-7 page papers for the course and four 1-2 page reflection papers. The first 5-7 page paper will serve as a mid-term exam and will consider the “ancient” sources read during the first half of the semester. The second 5-7 page paper will serve as a final exam and will consider the “modern” sources read during the second half of the semester. Two Reflection papers will compare the views of“ancient” sources and two will compare the views of “modern” sources.”

Grading for the course will be based on a system of 100 possible points. There will be 20 possible points for each of the 5-7 page papers and 10 possible points for each reflection paper. The remaining 20 points will be derived from attendance and participation. Paper Submissions: Papers must be submitted according to standard formatting (one-inch margins, double-spaced, twelve-point Times New Roman font). Citations should refer to the editions and translations required by the syllabus and should be noted parenthetically in the text. The use of outside sources is strongly discouraged and the definition of plagiarism contained in the Emory College Honor Code applies to all work submitted in this course. All incidents of plagiarism will be reported to the honor council. Extensions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. Late papers will be marked down 10% for every day after the due date.

Attendance will be considered a necessary form of participation. Frequent and unexcused absence may result in the loss of all possible participation points.


The translations and editions required for the course are available at the bookstore. Students must use and cite from these editions and no others in papers submitted for grading.

-Plato. Meno. Translated by G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett,

-Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Terence Irwin. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1976.

-Epicurus. The Epicurus Reader. Edited and Translated by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson. Indianapolis: Hackett 1994.

-Epictetus, The Handbook. Translated by Nicholas P. White. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983.

-Augustine, On the Freedom of the Will. Translated by Thomas Williams: Hackett, 1993.

-Spinoza, Ethics. Translated by Samuel Shirley. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992.

-Hume, An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Edited by J.B. Schneewind. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983.

-Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by James W. Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981.

-Mill, Utilitarianism (selections, to be distributed in class).

-Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals (selections, to be distributed in class).


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