Skip Navigation
Distance Learning
Home > Academics > eLearning > Course Formats > Online > PHIL Online Course Descriptions > PHIL 103 Introduction to Ethics

PHIL 103 Introduction to Ethics

Ethics introduces the branch of philosophy that attempts to discover by rational methods the truth about right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. Critically examines existing systems of values and their applications to life situations; helps improve students’ ability to understand and make ethical choices.

PrerequisitesEligible to enroll in ENGL-101 or ENGL-121.
InstructorDaniel G. Jenkins

Overall Course Objectives | Major Course Topics | Course Format | Orientation | Course Requirements | Materials | Exams

Overall Course Objectives

Once you have completed this course you will be able to:

  • Explain and demonstrate how critical analysis is central to the study and application of ethics.
  • Identify ways in which ethics is a dynamic subject which is responsive to new discoveries in related fields.
  • Identify core ideas and famous ethicists from the character ethics tradition.
  • Identify core ideas and famous ethicists from the teleological ethics tradition.
  • Identify core ideas and famous ethicists from the deontological ethics tradition.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the influence that cultural and social orientations have on the development and acceptance/rejection of various ethical theories.
  • Identify the different conceptions of human nature that are implied by different ethical theories.
  • Logically evaluate ethical arguments. 
  • Explain the importance and relevance of distinguishing between unsupported ethical opinions and justified ethical beliefs.  
  • Identify the value and role of electronic media in philosophical research and analysis.

Specific Course Objectives

To educate students in the structure and function of ethical reasoning generally and to inform them of classical, modern and applied systems specifically.  Upon successful completion of the course students should be able to describe what ethics is, why it is useful, and should be able to delineate in detail characteristics of moral judgments; i.e., the difference between subjective and objective approaches to establishing moral arguments, the difference between logical proofs in science and logical proofs in ethics, and the role of individual interests when determining right and wrong.  In particular, students should be familiar with the basic tenets of Platonic, Aristotelian, and Kantian systems of ethical decision-making, and should be knowledgeable of the ways in which Principlist, Utilitarian, Virtue, and Care Ethics arrive at moral judgments.  Students should be able to demonstrate applied knowledge through evaluating case examples (many of which are set in the context of health care, research, and law) of ethical dilemmas using various systems.  What would Kant say about euthanasia and why? Is being on life support an example of the Aristotelian good life? Is the exercise of eminent domain the action of a Platonic Philosopher-King? Can you really behave morally if you don’t care about others emotionally, or is it enough that you merely do the right thing?  Is it enough that we have good intentions, or does the outcome of our behavior determine the morality of our actions? Through asking and answering these questions students will have the opportunity to inform their own ethical decision-making, though the course is not concerned with endorsing or imposing any ethical or moral religious system upon students.  The course does not deal with beliefs or feelings that do not require evidential and demonstrable support, but rather only with ethical claims that can be made in the name of knowledge and are objectively verifiable.

Major Course Topics

  • Critical thinking in the context of ethics
  • The structure and function of ethics
  • Classical Ethical Theory (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill/Principlism, Virtue Ethics, Duty, Utilitarianism)
  •  Modern Ethical Theory (Rawls, the Ethics of Care, Biomedical Ethics)
  • Evaluation of case examples/Application of learned material (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, sexual morality, etc.)

Course Format

This course:

  • is not self-paced.
  • Does not require on-campus meetings.
  • Does not require real-time chats.
  • Does require group work.

Once you have registered, email me at  Be sure to include your name and the course and section and semester, you are enrolled in.  My reply message to you will incude the URL (or internet address) of our course resources and your personal username and password so that you can access our online class.  I will forward this information to you shortly before the start of our semester.

Course Requirements

  • Review the “What you should know before you register” section of the Distance Learning Homepage.
  • Philosophy Log, one entry to be completed each week.
  • Online exams, including cumulative, comprehensive midterm and final exams, consisting of short-answer and essay questions.
  • Textbook readings and PowerPoint presentations to be viewed each week.
  • Short-answer homework assignments each week.
  • Completion of an approximately three to five page position paper.
  • Participation in bulletin board communications and threaded discussions.

Texts and Materials


Textbook information:  To visit our bookstore's online sales site, please visit and follow the instructions for selecting textbooks.

Technical Requirements and Plug-Ins:

Review the Technical Requirements link above. The following plug-ins are required for this course:

  •         Acrobat Viewer
  •         Internet Explorer
  •         Netscape
  •         PowerPoint Viewer
  •         Real Player
  •         Windows Media Player
  •         Word Viewer


Exams will all be taken online. You will have a flexible window of time during which it needs to be taken rather than a single date and time.

If you have any questions or comments about this course, please send a message to
Daniel Jenkins at

Last updated on 22-April-08
© Howard Community College, 2000

 Top of Page | Online Courses Home | Distance Learning Home | HCC Home

Student Profile - Maribel