Program Overview

The ethics minor not only helps prepare students for a variety of graduate programs such as law, medicine, and business, but also helps students explore important questions such as how ethics should interpret war, business practice and poverty.  

Minor Offered

  • Minor in ethics


Robert C. Good, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairperson
North Hall 116

Program Website:  Philosophy
Associated Department: Department of Philosophy

Related programs

Ethics Minor Requirements

(18 credits)

PHL 115Ethics3
PHL 360Contemporary Ethics3
One 400-level philosophy seminar3
Three philosophy electives including one at the 300-level or above9
Total Credits18

Courses and Descriptions

PHL 100 Plato and Aristotle 3 Credits

The beginnings of Western scientific and humanistic thought among the early Greeks and their progress into the two great systems of Plato and Aristotle. Selections from Plato and Aristotle are read and discussed to determine the meaning and significance of philosophical ideas that have subsequently influenced the whole history of Western civilization.

PHL 102 Philosophical Thinking 3 Credits

An introduction to philosophical thought with an emphasis on the enduring questions and problems of philosophy. We will explore such questions as: how do I know I am not dreaming? Is there an external world? What is truth? Is there a self? Is there a God? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? How can I tell right from wrong? What makes government legitimate? What is justice? What is the meaning of life? We will consider answers to these questions from diverse philosophical traditions, reading such philosophers as Plato, Descartes, Zhuangzi, Hume, Vasubandhu, Berkeley, Aquinas, Avicenna, Udayana, Kant, Mill, Russell, Camus, and Nishitani.

PHL 110 Logic and Language 3 Credits

A study of the logical structure of argumentation in ordinary language, with an emphasis on the relation of logic to the uses of language in practical affairs. Traditional informal fallacies are studied as well. Discussions explore the nature of validity, truth, meaning, and evidence in relation to the evaluation of arguments.

PHL 115 Ethics 3 Credits

A combined historical and systematic analysis of the problems of ethics. Such problems as the nature and meaning of moral values and judgments, moral responsibility and freedom, conscience and happiness, the good life, and the relativity of value, are explored through the writings of such philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Mill, and Nietzsche.

PHL 120 American Philosophy 3 Credits

The development of philosophical thought in the United States from the colonial era to the 20th century. Studies such thinkers as Edwards, Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, Peirce, James, Dewey, and King, and their ideas on human nature, free will, religion, morality, and politics.

PHL 125 Philosophies of Education 3 Credits

Studies classical and contemporary theories of the nature, structure, and aims of education, including major works of such philosophers as Plato, Rousseau, and Dewey. The course will also introduce students to methods of critical philosophical analysis.

PHL 130 Political Philosophy 3 Credits

An introduction to the problems of political philosophy with an emphasis on recent and contemporary issues, such as the conflict between liberal and conservative ideologies, fascism, revolution, civil disobedience, and the concept of legitimate political authority.

PHL 202 Social Philosophy 3 Credits

Emphasizes social ethics through critical studies of such contemporary problems as abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, pornography and censorship, animal rights, drug use, sexual morality, environmental ethics, and world hunger.

PHL 203 Business Ethics 3 Credits

Surveys and examines ethical problems concerning the institutions and practices of contemporary business. Problems considered include: the conflicts of economic freedom and social responsibility; the relation of profits to work and alienation; the responsibilities of business to employees, minorities, consumers and the environment; the role of truthfulness in business practices; and the ethics of self-fulfillment and career ambitions. Readings selected from works of contemporary and historical philosophers, social theorists, and business people.

PHL 207 Asian Philosophy 3 Credits

A survey of the principal philosophical perspectives of Asia. Emphasis on the traditional Indian schools of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, Chinese Confucianism and Taoism, and the development of Zen Buddhism in China and Japan. Philosophical topics include: mystical experience, the ultimate nature of reality, the existence of a soul, the causes of human suffering, and the possibility of release, the nature of virtue and its development, and the nature of society and government.

PHL 210 Symbolic Logic 3 Credits

An introduction to logic from the standpoint of modern symbolic methods, including techniques of formal deductive proof, quantification, the logic of relations, and properties of formal deductive systems. Discussions focus on philosophical issues in recent and contemporary logical theory.

PHL 215 Environmental Ethics 3 Credits

A comprehensive introduction to environmental ethics that examines the major theoretical approaches, including anthropocentric (human-centered), zoocentric or sentientist (animal-centered), and biocentric or ecocentric (nature-centered) value systems, as well as the most important critiques of these ethical approaches. We will examine and analyze several classical ethical theories that are particularly relevant to a study of contemporary environmental controversies. We will also address specific issues such as biodiversity and wilderness preservation; human use of animals as food, entertainment, and research subjects; environmental racism and toxic dumping; sustainable development, population and consumption. Students will analyze and discuss the ethical dimensions of several contemporary environmental controversies.

PHL 225 Modern Philosophy 3 Credits

Examines one of the most exciting periods in the history of philosophy during which philosophers from Descartes to Kant tried to come to terms with the following questions: What is knowledge? Can we know the physical world exists? Can we have scientific knowledge? Can we know God exists? Can we even know whether we exist? The works of Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant are read and discussed.

PHL 226 Limits of Reason: 19th Century Philosophy 3 Credits

Studies the nature and meaning of reason, freedom, individuality, and society in the writings of philosophers such as Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Emerson, Thoreau, Comte, Mill, Spencer, Marx, and Nietzsche. Examination of the impact of such philosophies as the dialectical theory of history, transcendentalism, evolutionary theory, positivism, and existentialism on ideas about the nature and limits of human reason.

PHL 230 Philosophy of the Sexes 3 Credits

Studies philosophical views of the differences between the sexes, sexual equality, love, marriage, and the family from ancient Greece to the 20th century. Texts from the contemporary women’s and men’s movements will also be examined.

PHL 252 The Nature of Art 3 Credits

An inquiry into the nature of art, creativity, aesthetic experience, and value. Special attention to the importance of art in relation to the nature of man and society. Readings from classical theories of art (Plato, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Croce, Santayana), as well as from contemporary analyses of 20th-century art.

PHL 300 Philosophy and Civilization 3 Credits

An investigation of the rise and fall of civilizations in history, studying philosophical questions such as is history cyclical? Linear? Progressive? Directed toward a final goal? What is the role of the individual in history? Of economic, political, sociological, and psychological causes? Does history have a meaning? The works of St. Augustine, Vico, Hegel, Marx, and Toynbee, and the contemporary debate about the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West will be discussed.

PHL 303 Philosophy of Law 3 Credits

An examination and analysis of selected topics including classical and contemporary theories in the philosophy of law and moral philosophy. Such topics as the nature of the law and legal reasoning, the legal enforcement of morality, protection of personal liberty, and the moral justification of punishment are considered. Such philosophers as Aquinas, Austin, Holmes, Bentham, Hart, and Dworkin are read and discussed.

PHL 304 Medical Ethics 3 Credits

Introduces the student to ethical problems associated with the practice of medicine, the pursuit of biomedical research, and health care social policy. The course will explore such issues as: Is a physician morally obligated to tell a terminally ill patient that he or she is dying? Is society ever justified in enacting laws that would commit an individual, against his or her will, to a mental institution? Does society have a moral obligation to ensure that all its members have access to health care? To what extent, if at all, is it ethically acceptable to clone a human being? Under what conditions is human experimentation ethically acceptable?.

PHL 305 Philosophy of Religion 3 Credits

An inquiry into the meaning, significance, and fundamental problems of religion as they appear in their philosophical perspective. The relation between religion and science, between faith and reason; religious experience, religious truth, and symbolism, etc. will be explored. Selections from the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Augustine, Paley, Hume, Kant, James, and Wittgenstein will be discussed.

PHL 310 Problems in 20th-Century Philosophy 3 Credits

Consideration of major philosophical movements in the 20th century such as phenomenology, existentialism, pragmatism, and analytic philosophy. Within these movements such topics as the function of analysis, language and meaning, the nature of values, the nature of persons, the synthetic-analytic distinction, the mind-body problem, and the possibility of metaphysics are considered. The work of such figures as Wittgenstein, Russell, Heidegger, Husserl, Sartre, Whitehead, and Dewey are read and discussed.

PHL 315 Existentialism 3 Credits

Historical development and contemporary problems of existentialism with emphasis on the nature of man, his ability to know his situation, the relation between existence and essence, and the meaning of human life and activity. The works of such figures as Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger, Camus, Kafka, Beckett, Buber, Laing, and Frankl are read and discussed.

PHL 320 Philosophy of Science 3 Credits

The logic of fundamental concepts of science and scientific methods are studied. Patterns of explanation are examined to understand the functions of laws, theories, and predictions in science. Inquiry is made into the relation between mathematics and empirical science; similarities and distinctions between the natural and social sciences. The role of science in human affairs and the value of scientific knowledge.

PHL 334 Theories of Knowledge 3 Credits

An investigation of selected, representative theories of knowledge from classical and contemporary sources. Considers the analytic-synthetic distinctions, necessary truth, and the foundations of empirical knowledge. Such philosophers as Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Russell, and Quine are read and discussed.

PHL 336 Philosophy of Mind 3 Credits

An investigation of the nature, existence, and capacities of the mind and self in the light of recent philosophical and psychological theories, including psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Considers such topics as the interaction of mind and body, the unconscious, minds and machines, freedom of thought and action.

PHL 343 Theories of Reality 3 Credits

An examination of metaphysical problems with an emphasis on philosophical views of human nature from ancient Greece to contemporary evolutionary theories. The writings of such classical, modern, and contemporary figures as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Darwin are read and discussed. Issues studied include the relation between mind and matter, freedom and determinism, and the existence of God.

PHL 348 Indian Philosophy 3 Credits

Consideration of major movements in the philosophical tradition of India. Emphasis on the disputes between the traditional Hindu and Buddhist schools of the classical period over logic, knowledge, and reality. Philosophical topics include: skepticism, the problem of universals, realism and idealism, the nature of perception, the problem of induction, the nature of causality, and the problem of identity over time. Philosophers such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Vatsyayana, Dharmakirti, and Udayana will be read and discussed.

PHL 358 Chinese Philosophy 3 Credits

Consideration of major movements in the philosophical tradition of China. Emphasis on the political philosophies of ancient China. Topics include: human nature and the development of virtue, the nature and purpose of government, and the cognitive value of mystical experience. Philosophers such as Confucius, Laozi, Xunzi, Mencius, Mozi, and Zhuangzi will be read and discussed.

PHL 360 Contemporary Ethics 3 Credits

An examination of recent and contemporary challenges to traditional ethical theory including such movements as logical positivism, cultural relativism, feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and postmodernism. Such problems as the meaning and cognitive status of value judgments, the relation between fact and value, the relativity of values, and how value judgments can be justified are considered.

PHL 368 Japanese Philosophy 3 Credits

Consideration of major movements in the philosophical tradition of Japan, with an emphasis on Zen Buddhism in Medieval Japan and the Kyoto school in the 20th century. Topics include: the use of meditation and koans in Zen practice, the relationship between practice and enlightenment, the nature of time, meaning and nihility, and the relationship between science and religion. Philosophers such as Kukai, Mumon, Dogen, and Nishitani will be read and discussed.

PHL 402 Nietzsche and Nihilism 3 Credits

A seminar dealing with Nietzsche’s provocative ideas on Nihilism and the possibility of creating meaning, value, and truth for human existence. Many of his important works are read, analyzed, and critically discussed. Recent scholarly interpretations of Nietzsche’s philosophy are considered.

Prerequisite(s): any previous philosophy course or permission of instructor.

PHL 404 Philosophy of Wittgenstein 3 Credits

Seminar involving a concentrated study of Wittgenstein’s contributions to philosophy with special attention to his analysis of language, meaning, and mental concepts.

Prerequisite(s): any previous philosophy course or permission of instructor.

PHL 406 Philosophy of David Hume 3 Credits

Seminar involving a concentrated study of Hume’s contributions to philosophy, including his work on epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion.

Prerequisite(s): any previous philosophy course or permission of instructor.

PHL 407 Philosophy of Hannah Arendt 3 Credits

Seminar involving a concentrated study of the philosophy of Hannah Arendt with special attention to her analysis of action, thought, and freedom.

Prerequisite(s): any previous philosophy course or permission of instructor.

PHL 408 The Philosophy of William James 3 Credits

Seminar involving a concentrated study of William James’ contributions to philosophy with special attention to his pragmatism, pluralism, and radical empiricism. Many of James’ philosophical works are read, analyzed, and critically discussed. Recent scholarly interpretations of James’ philosophy are considered.

PHL 418 Great Buddhist Thinkers 3 Credits

Concentrated study of philosophy of the eleventh-century philosopher Ratnakirti, focusing on his contributions to the development of Buddhist philosophy in India and his disputes with defenders of philosophical realism from the Nyaya school. Philosophical topics include: knowledge and justification, language and concepts, universals and particulars, the problem of identity over time, the existence of god, and the existence of other minds.

PHL 490 Independent Research and Study 1-4 Credits

Independent Research and Study allows juniors and seniors in good academic standing to investigate topics of interest under faculty supervision. Projects must be approved by the faculty member, department chairperson, and academic dean no later than the third week of the semester in which the project is to be conducted. Only one project can be scheduled in a semester, and for no more than four semester hours; up to 12 semester hours of independent research and study may be counted toward graduation. Note that individual departments may have additional restrictions.

PHL 491 Internship in Philosophy 1-4 Credits

Students will work under supervision within an area hospital, corporation, or legal agency. The specific duties and tasks will be developed jointly by the intern, intern agency, and faculty supervisor. Within the hospital setting, students will work with the Hospital Medical Ethics Committee. Within the corporate setting, there will be two types of internships: students will work in the corporate office responsible for addressing the ethical issues that arise in the business environment; or students will work in a department that allows them to explore the potential business applications of their philosophic intellectual training. Within the legal setting, students will work with the federal magistrate, prosecutor, or public defender, exploring issues in the philosophy of law that arise in the practice of law. Students must have completed four philosophy courses, one at the 300 level, before applying for the internship. No more than six credits will be allowed toward graduation. A member of the department of philosophy will supervise the internship.

Prerequisite(s): juniors and seniors with a minimum of 2.7 cumulative GPA and 3.0 GPA in philosophy, or permission of the department of philosophy.

PHL 494 Preparation and Research for Senior Philosophy Thesis 1 Credits

Supervised by a faculty member, the Philosophy major chooses a topic, composes an outline and a bibliography. Must be completed prior to enrolling in PHL 495.

PHL 495 Senior Philosophy Thesis 3 Credits

In a tutorial setting, the Philosophy major will write a thesis which serves as the Capstone Experience in the Department.

Prerequisite(s): PHL 494.