Introduction to Philosophy and Ethics
Single-semester course (Spring only). Introduction to Ethics and Moral Philosophy challenges the high school student to learn and to acquire the skills necessary to think about, analyze, and discuss ethical dilemmas. This course will center around a three-fold theme of questions regarding the meaning of the word “Good.”—“What is the Good?”, “How can we know what is the Good?”, and “Can we live the Good in our lives?” The course will examine seminal texts from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant, among others, and will continue to examine contemporary ethical issues through the lens provided by these classic authors. Because this will be the first introduction for many students to these key thinkers, the passages selected will be abbreviated and the student’s work will focus on learning how to read these key thinkers and consider the questions they ask.
Work in the course will consist of the following: 1) a weekly reading assignment in a key text from the philosophical tradition; 2) a set of reading questions to assist the student in comprehension of the text; 3) in-class discussion of that week’s text or passage; 4) a weekly ethical “case-study” discussion forum which will be relevant to the student’s life, where the student will be asked to articulate his/her position on right and wrong; 5) two extended papers (approximately three pages each) on a text discussed on in class; 6) a take-home midterm test; and 7) a take home final exam.
Students are not expected to have any background in the material. The reading passages selected will be appropriate for a high school student with a good ability to read and to comprehend texts on their own. The course will challenge the student to examine his or her own personal answers and beliefs to the questions listed above. While the course will not necessarily push a particular ethical theory, the course is not an open-ended questioning of all ethical thought. The goal of the course is to help the student understand that a “good” life is possible, and that the examination of life’s moral dilemmas requires careful discernment, as informed by the ethical tradition of Western thought.
Nota Bene: This class uses online versions of the readings that are available for free to all students. Please use the editions linked here.
- Aristotle—The Nicomachean Ethics (Selections)
- Aquinas, Thomas—Selections from the Summa Theolgiae, specifically the Treatise on Virtues
- Augustine—Retractions (Selection)
- Descartes, Rene—Correspondence between Descartes and Princess Elisabeth (Selections)
- Kant, Immanuel—What is Enlightenment?
- Plato—Crito, Meno
- Le Guin, Ursula—The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
- Melville, Herman—Billy Budd
- Twain, Mark—The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival Crime in Connecticut
Class meets once per week for 50-55 minutes.
Class cap: 15 students.
Designed for grades 10-12.
Students in grades 10-12 may be awarded .5 Social Sciences credit upon completion of this course.