University of Pittsburgh, Fall 1998
Philosophy 0300: Introduction to Ethics
Ben Eggleston

Introduction to Ethics

Syllabus and assignments:

Study notes:

To see the study notes for a particular author, click on the corresponding link below.

The study notes include
  • background information about the authors and reading assignments,
  • study questions,
  • suggestions for further reading, and
  • outlines of topics to be covered in class.

The study questions are intended to draw attention to some of the main ideas expressed in the works to which they refer. They are given in the order in which their answers may be found while reading these works, so they may be considered as your read the works, as well as after you have finished. All of the questions that will be asked on the quizzes will be available as study questions at least a week before being asked.


Practically all of us face moral decisions. In such cases, we typically ask ourselves, “What’s the right thing to do?” It often happens that answering this question, and ones related to it, is a complicated and confusing endeavor. Various factors—self-interest, family, country, and religion; respect for individual freedom and a concern for social order; and others—pull on us from many sides. Balancing these disparate influences is difficult, and we are often left feeling that our answers to moral questions are somewhat arbitrary and ill-reasoned. Ethics is concerned—at least in part—with helping us to answer moral questions more reasonably by providing us with some procedure that generates answers to moral questions: some theory (or system, or set of principles) that we can consult in order to come up with answers to moral questions. In this course, we will examine three of these ethical theories—natural-law theory, Kantianism, and utilitarianism—and conclude by considering how a Darwinian view of evolution influences the way we think about morality.