Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Scarbrough

Abbreviated Syllabus Below (full syllabus as PDF available here)

Course Description:  This class is a brief introduction to moral theory and applied ethics. We will pair historical readings with contemporary insights into those reading. The first part of the course will focus on three big moral theories: Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue Ethics. These theories present accounts of what makes an action right or wrong, what makes a person virtuous or vicious, and what role an ethical theory should play in a good life. Some of the applied ethical topics discussed will include: whether we have an obligation to follow the law, our obligations to global famine relief, abortion, animal rights, and oppression.

Required Texts: Cahn, Steven M., ed. Exploring Ethics: An Introductory Anthology, 4th Ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).[1]

Evaluation Criteria:  

  • Attendance and Participation 15 points: You are required to attend class sessions. Attendance includes being awake, alert, and prepared. There will be group discussions and group work in class.  You are being graded on the quality of your contribution to the class. Additionally, I have a “no cell phones” policy in class. If I catch you on your cell phone, you will be marked absent for the day.
  •  Writing Assignments: 55 points: This is a GORDON RULE course and as such you must have at least three writing assignment and must write a minimum of ten pages. There are three types of writing assignments in this class: Smaller Writing Scaffolding Assignments (30 points), Journal Entries  (10 points), and a Final Paper (15 points). Both the Smaller Writing Scaffolding Assignments and Journal Entries are designed to help you accomplish your final paper. See full syllabus for more information.
  • Quizzes 15 points: There will be eight in-class quizzes. They are all noted in the syllabus. The quizzes cannot be made-up if you are absent that day (unless documented illness or emergency). You can earn up to 16/15 points on these quizzes as each quiz is worth 2 points.
  •  Final Exam 15 points: A final exam composed of multiple choice questions will be held online the day after our last class.

Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct includes cheating, plagiarism, and unauthorized collaboration with other students on assignments. Academic dishonesty disadvantages honest students, and is clearly unfair to hardworking students. Instructors have a duty, therefore, to protect honest students, and to insure that they are not disadvantaged by dishonest students. For more information, see FIU’s Academic Misconduct policy (Section 2.44). There are serious consequences for academic misconduct, including suspension and expulsion from the university. All students suspected of plagiarism will be reported to the Office of Academic Misconduct and receive a “0” on their assignment.

Safe Zone Statement:  I am part of the Safe Zone Ally community here at FIU. This means I am part of a network of trained FIU faculty/staff/students who are available to listen and support you in a safe and confidential manner. As a Safe Zone Ally, I can help connect you with resources on campus to address problems you may face that interfere with your academic and social success on campus as it relates to issues surrounding sexual orientation/gender identity. My goal is to help you be successful and to maintain a safe and equitable campus.

Commitment to Disability Access:  It is my moral and legal obligation to provide students with disabilities accommodations to help them succeed in my classroom. I take this responsibility seriously. You need not disclose to me your disability, but I can work with you to provide accommodations to help you succeed. You may also choose to work with the Disability Resource Center. The Disability Resource Center collaborates with faculty to provide inclusive learning environments. More information may be found at the DRC’s website:



5/9 & 5/11






Movie: Black Power Mix Tape (Olsson, 2011)

Topic: Introductions!




Reading: None.


Due: Nothing.




Topic: Obl. Follow Law



Crito, Plato (p. 6)

-Letter, MLK (p. 27)


Due: Nothing (but you can write your first journal entry on either Crito or MLK. If you choose to, journal entry due before class on TURN IT IN.



5/16 & 5/18








Movie: A Separation (Farhadi, 2011)


Topic: Utilitarianism



Utilitarianism, Mill (p. 118)

-Strengths and Weaknesses, Pojman (p. 130)


Quiz 1


Due: Introduction assignment (TURN IT IN) by the start of class.


Topic: Famine Relief / Guest Lecture




-Singer, “Famine Affluence and Morality,” (p. 264)


Quiz 2: Singer expense report


Due: In-class (printed out) EC expense sheet (in place of a quiz).



5/23 & 5/25










Movie: A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971)


Topic: Kantianism




-Kant, The Categorical Imperative (p.102)

-O’Neill, A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics (p. 114)


Quiz 3


Due: Exegesis assignment (TURN IT IN) by the start of class.


Topic: Famine Relief



-O’Neill, “Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems” (PDF)



Quiz 4



-One journal entry must be completed by this class.




5/30 & 6/1







Movie: Blackfish (Cowperthwaite, 2013)


Topic: Animal Rights


-Singer, “All Animals are Equal” (PDF)

– Wallace, “Consider the Lobster” (PDF)


Quiz 5

Due: Argument assignment (TURN IT IN) by the start of class.

Topic: Animal Rights


-Regan, “The Case for Animal Rights” (p. 352)

-Cohen, “Why Animals Have No Rights” (p. 373)


Quiz 6



6/6 & 6/8








Movie: Cider House Rules

(Hallstrom, 1999)


Topic: Abortion




-Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion” (p. 186)

-Marquis, “Why Abortion is Immoral” (p. 22)


Due: Conclusion assignment (TURN IT IN) by the start of class.


Topic: Abortion



-Hursthouse, “Virtue Theory and Abortion” (p. 232)


Quiz 7


Course Eval Day




6/13 & 6/18 & 6/19*










Movie: Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)


Topic: Oppression


-Frye, “Oppression” (PDF)

-Hay, “Obligation to Resist Oppression” (PDF – only first ten pages)


Quiz 8


Peer Eval Day – don’t miss! Bring a hard copy of your paper outline to class.


Due: Paper outline (TURN IT IN) by the start of class.

Topic: Oppression


-Hay, “Obligation to Resist Oppression” (PDF – finish the article)

_(In class we will look at Young, “5 Faces of Oppression” which can be found as a PDF on Blackboard)



Due: Your second (or third extra credit) journal must be completed by today.

*Paper / Final Exam Friday

[1] There are on-line resources associated with this text. Please visit:
[2] Documented illnesses/emergencies do not include car trouble, work schedules, or family trips/vacations.