University of Pittsburgh, Fall Term 1998
Ben Eggleston, Instructor
Philosophy 0300—CRN 35193: Introduction to Ethics
mailbox: CL 1001—office: CL 1428E
Thursdays, 5:45 p.m. to 8:10 p.m., in CL 142
office hours: Tuesdays, 5:15–6:15, and Thursdays, 4:40–5:40


I. Description

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.

II. Aims

This course’s aims include (1) introducing you to the field of ethical theory, (2) familiarizing you with some works with important implications for ethical theory, and (3) developing your abilities to assess, both in conversation and in writing, the merits of rival ethical theories.

To advance these aims, you will be required to read certain texts, to attend class and to participate in class discussions, and to complete some written assignments.

III. Books

The following five books are sold by the Pitt Book Center. Although each of these books contains required reading, other suitable editions of the same texts, or other books containing suitable editions of the required reading, may be used instead. For a list of the required reading, see the schedule, below.

John Locke
Second Treatise of Government
Hackett Publishing Company, 1980
Immanuel Kant
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
Hackett Publishing Company, 1993
Aldous Huxley
Brave New World
Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989
John Stuart Mill
Hackett Publishing Company, 1979
Robert Wright
The Moral Animal
Random House, Inc., 1994

IV. Schedule

We will meet fifteen times from September 3 to December 17, on Thursdays in room 142 of the Cathedral of Learning. Due to a university holiday, we will not meet on Thursday, November 26. Class will start at 5:45 p.m and finish by 8:10 p.m. Following is a list of the reading assignments, each of which must be done before the class on the day on which it is listed.

reading assignment
September 3
none (introductory class)
September 10
Locke, Second Treatise of Government
• Locke’s “Preface”
• chapters I–VI
September 17
Locke, Second Treatise of Government:
• chapters IX–XI
• chapter XIX, sections 211–231 and sections 240–243
(also: quiz no. 1)
September 24
Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, preface and first section
October 1
(paper no. 1 due)
Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, section section, through p. 433
(also: quiz no. 2)
October 8
Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, remainder of second section
(also: review of Locke and Kant)
October 15
none (midterm test)
October 22
Huxley, Brave New World, chapters I–IX
October 29
Huxley, Brave New World, chapters X–XVIII
November 5
Mill, Utilitarianism, chapters I–II
(also: quiz no. 3)
November 12
Mill, Utilitarianism, chapters III–IV
November 19
(paper no. 2 due)
Mill, Utilitarianism, chapter V
November 26
none (no class)
December 3
Wright, The Moral Animal, selections to be announced
(also: quiz no. 4)
December 10
Wright, The Moral Animal, selections to be announced
(also: review)
December 17
none (final exam)

V. Requirements

In addition to reading the assigned texts on time, you will be required to take quizzes, a midterm test, and a final exam; to write papers; and to attend class and to participate in class discussions.

  1. Four quizzes will be given in class.
  2. A midterm test will be given in class on October 15 and a comprehensive final exam will be given in class on December 17.
  3. You will be required to write two papers. The first one, about 4 pages long, will be due on October 1. The second, about 6 pages long, will be due on November 19.
  4. Attendance will be taken, and discussions will be held, in every class.

Final grades will be determined by these factors, weighted as follows: 5 percent for each of the four quizzes, 10 percent for the midterm test, 20 percent for the final exam, 15 percent for the first paper, 25 percent for the second paper, and 10 percent for attendance and class participation. Also, failure to take the midterm test or the final exam, or to turn in two papers earning passing grades (on their merits, not counting the penalty for lateness), will result in failing the course.

It is possible that these requirements will change, as may other plans reported on this syllabus. Revisions will be stated on the World Wide Web site at the address given above. For more about the Web site, see “VI. Additional Resources,” below.

VI. Additional Resources

I’ll have office hours in area E of room 1428 in the Cathedral of Learning on Tuesdays from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. and on Thursdays from 4:40 to 5:40 p.m. and will be available at other times by appointment.

To contact me outside of class and office hours, use e-mail if possible ( Otherwise, call me at home, at (412) 521-5534, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Furthermore, the World Wide Web site at the address given above includes links to several useful documents, including