Program Overview

The Practical Ethics minor is designed to familiarize students with the nature and varieties of moral reasoning that are applied to areas of everyday experience, such as: business, marketing, management, and sales; medicine and the delivery of health care; law enforcement; media and public relations; social service careers; civic life; and intimate life in the roles of friend, lover, partner, parent, child, man or woman, and racialized person. Practical ethics is a 20-credit minor meant to complement a degree in any professional field, such as marketing, management, counseling, nursing, or human services.

More information about this program

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Requirements

Courses required for your specific program are listed in the right column on this page. They include prerequisite, foundation, core and elective courses. Contact your advisor with questions concerning your degree plan.

Electives in Ethics

One additional course, chosen in consultation with a faculty advisor in the Practical Philosophy and Ethics Department.

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Course List

Prerequisites

Requirements ( 20 total credits)

Practical Ethics: Introductory Ethics

One course from among the following:

  • PHIL 301 Ethical Inquiry
    4 credits

    What does it mean to be an ethical person? What thinking should guide a person's decisions about doing (or not doing) what is right or wrong? Can we know when something is right or wrong or this only a matter of personal feeling? Do the affluent have moral duties to help the poor of the world with their plight? This course explores these questions and others like them, using a variety of philosophical materials and approaches. It examines major moral theories and related moral dilemmas concerning, for example abortion, economic justice, war and morality, and the moral status of animals. This course also examines ideas about how race, class and gender may affect concepts of ethics.

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  • PHIL 352 Borders, Walls, Us and Them
    4 credits

    This course offers an introduction to the philosophical issues raised by political and economic relations in the global system. Classes typically deal with challenges such as just distribution of goods and services; the morality of war; the complexity of humanitarian intervention; recognition across national boundaries; and environmental justice.

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  • PHIL 354 Economic Justice: Who Gets What and Why?
    4 credits

    Does the fact that some in the world have more than they need in order to live and others have too little to survive show that the world is unjust? Do people in affluent countries have a moral obligation to help those in impoverished countries? Should material well-being be more equally distributed in a just world? Should people who contribute more get more? Do smart people, beautiful people, and hard-working people deserve to get more than those who are less so? Should the world's bounty be seen as belonging to all equally? These and other questions regarding the controversial issue of economic justice will be addressed through a variety of philosophical materials.

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Practical Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Diversity

One course from among the following:

  • PHIL 306 Philosophy and Sexuality
    4 credits

    This introductory course explores the most basic ideas about human sexuality and sexual identity: What does it mean to be a woman or a man? What does it mean to have a sexual identity? Is there such a thing as "normal" sex? How has sexuality been socially regulated in the past and how is it currently regulated? How can people evaluate such "regulations"? How do ideas about sexuality influence gender, ethnic, racial and other sterotypes? What sorts of ideas do people have about the nature of their bodies? Students develop basic philosophical skills in order to sort out these questions. Topics usually include: eroticism, desire, homophobia, sexual violence, pornography, prostitution, and sexual imagery in popular culture, love and romance.

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  • PHIL 362 African and African-American Philosophy
    4 credits

    This course examines philosophical works produced in Africa and about Africa, as well as work by and about African Americans. Topics may include: the ethno philosophy of Africa; the philosophy of liberation movements in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States; and contemporary philosophy in the United States and Europe as written by persons of African descent. Questions raised could include: Is there an "African philosophy"? What should the goals of liberation be? In what sense is there a "Black identity?" Are racial solidarity and racism related? How has the experience of persons of African descent been recorded philosophically? What is the experience of African-American intellectuals like?

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  • PHIL 365 The Cultural Politics of GLBT Sexuality
    4 credits

    This course studies the socio-cultural, political, and conceptual bases of contemporary identity formation in gay. lesbian, transgender and bisexual communities. Variable topics of study, focused primarily on the United States, examine the development of communal and political LGBT identity rooted in the philosophical, social, and political debates and challenges among and between LGBT people since 1945: the Homophile movement of the 1950's and 1960's, the Stonewall Riot of 1969 and Gay Liberation movements of the 1970's, lesbian feminism and the politicization of sexuality, the HIV crisis, LGBT civil rights and public policy, transgender politics, race and is relationship to sexuality, and cultural, literary, and filmic expressions of LGBT identity. Overlap: GNDR 365

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  • PHIL 366 Race and Racism: Philosophical Problems
    4 credits

    What exactly is a race? How have conceptions of race changed over time? What does it mean to say that race is socially constructed? What is the relation between the idea of race, racial prejudice and racial oppression? What exactly is racism? What is the precise nature of the harm of racism? What can and should we do about racism -- its historical legacy and its contemporary manifestations? This course uses the tools and methods of philosophy to examine a variety of conceptual and ethical questions about race and racism.

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Practical Ethics: Professional Ethics

Two courses from the following:

  • PHIL 310 Environmental Philosophy
    4 credits

    In this course we use various philosophical approaches to explore the relations among persons, non-human animals and the worlds they inhabit separately and together. We will look closely at the grounds for claiming that we have obligations and duties in relation to non-human animals and the environment, as well as the ways in which these relations provide inspiration, companionship, solace and love. Topics may include: environmental justice and the disposal of electronic waste; animals and factory farming; the real cost of cheap consumer goods; the historical evolution of the concept of environment protection, of a land ethic, and of the development of natural parks; human stewardship; the possibility that natural creatures have a value that is independent of human benefit and whether it makes sense to grant them legal standing; global climate change; the connections between feminism and environmental ethics; the population time bomb and current responses; green politics; the role of scientific expertise in a democratic society; shallow vs deep environmental movements.

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  • PHIL 320 Business Ethics
    4 credits

    Do business firms have obligations besides making as much money as possible for their stockholders? What are their responsibilities, if any, to their employees, their customers, and the wider community? Is it enough to obey the law, or does the law sometimes allow people to do things that are wrong? Do employees have any right to privacy on the job? To 'living wages'? To 'decent' working conditions? Does a seller have any obligation to look out for the interests of the buyer? Isn't it necessary to put the best possible 'spin' on your product and let the buyer look out for him or herself? This course will examine questions like these in light of various theories of ethics and current theories of justice. In addition to considering how we might ideally like people to act, it will also consider the challenges to personal integrity and 'doing the right thing' posed by the real world of business and by the kind of large bureaucratic organizations that dominate it.

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  • PHIL 321 Medical Ethics
    4 credits

    Is it ever right to try to hasten a patient's death? Should people ever be given medical treatment against their will? How should we decide who will get access to scarce medical resources (like organ transplants)? Do people have a right to get the care they need, even if they can't pay for it? This course will use ethical theories and theories of justice to explore these questions and others like them. It is intended to be helpful not only to (present or future) health care practitioners, but also to anyone who wants to think about these issues, which confront us in our roles as patients and as citizens whose voices can contribute to the shaping of health care policies.

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  • PHIL 325 Criminal Justice Ethics
    4 credits

    Do criminal justice professionals have to meet a higher moral standard in their behavior as professionals than that of ordinary persons? Is it ever right for a criminal justice professional to "give a break" to a fellow professional? Should criminal justice professionals report clear moral violations of their fellow professionals? This course examines a range of moral dilemmas that criminal justice professionals are likely to face as they attempt to perform the duties of their office. Using both moral theory and detailed case examples from the criminal justice system, students learn to apply moral principles and concepts in a given situation to resolve these situations in a satisfactory ethical manner.

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  • PHIL 327 Ethics in the Information Age
    4 credits

    This course explores a range of moral issues raised by the introduction of new technologies for the production, distribution and use of information -- issues about privacy, surveillance and data-mining, freedom of speech, copyright, computer crime and abuse, justice in access to information, the political and social significance of the Internet, and so on. The course is intended to be helpful not only to information technology professionals, who will encounter some of these issues in connection with their work, but also to anyone who has an interest in the way information technology is changing our lives. Students will study moral theory, professional codes of ethics and a variety of case studies.

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