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PHILOS 120 - Introduction to Ethics - Andrew Jones-Cathcart

Course:Introduction to Ethics
Professor:Andrew Jones-Cathcart
  • Online
Course Length:
  • Applies to All Course Lengths


Note:  This is not a complete syllabus.  It contains learning outcome information, as well as information about the textbook and the course content.  The full syllabus will be available when the class begins.



Dr. Andrew Jones-Cathcart
College of the Canyons
Philosophy Department

Note: Although students should usually contact me through the Canvas messaging feature contained within the course, should problems arise please contact me at 



"Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education."
-Bertrand Russell

Course Description

This course introduces students to ethics, the philosophical study of morality. Ethics seeks to understand what morality is and how we ought to go about making moral decisions. For these reasons, an introductory course in ethics tries to answer the following sorts of questions:

  • What makes an action or a person moral?
  • Are there objective moral values on which we can all agree, or do moral values depend entirely on our culture, history, or personal preference?
  • Can it ever be right or wrong to judge someone else? Do others have the right to judge us?
  • Can any decision be absolutely right or wrong?
  • Do I have ethical responsibilities to other people? Do others have ethical responsibilities to me?
  • Is it ever right to be selfish?
  • Do we have a responsibility to future generations? Does it matter what happens after we die?
  • Do animals have rights? Do we have a duty to act in certain ways toward them?
  • Do the consequences of an action make it right? (Do the ends justify the means?)
  • Is an action right because it is commanded by God?
  • Can one be moral without God?
  • What is the relationship between law and morality?

This course attempts to answer these sorts of questions through the use of lectures, classroom discussions, critical writing and readings. To this end, we shall study the key concepts and theories in ethics in detail. These concepts and theories include, but are by no means limited to, relativism, egoism, utilitarianism, deontological ethics, natural law, and virtue-based ethics. Studying these concepts and theories will give us a general framework for coming to grips with particular issues of interest to contemporary ethicists. Specific issues typically dealt with in this course include terrorism, pornography, censorship, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, job discrimination, and animal or environmental rights.

Our main goal is not necessarily to discover the right answers to particular moral problems, e.g. whether or not abortion is morally justifiable; instead, we shall strive to gain a more heightened, reflective awareness of what is at stake when we are faced with moral problems and to learn how we might go about justifying the kinds of choices we might decide to make in response to these challenging moral problems.


Required Texts

Sandel, Michael.  Justice:  What is the Right Thing to Do?  Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  2010.  978-0374532505

Other readings will be accessible as on-line links.


Overall Student Learning Outcome

Identify important moral problems, articulate the morally significant aspects of such problems, and apply philosophical concepts from major ethical theories in order to analyze the strength of competing solutions to such problems.


Course Objectives:

1) Describe the basic method of inquiry used in philosophy, and apply this method in the investigation of the problems of moral philosophy.

2) Evaluate the adequacy of competing moral theories.

3) Articulate and offer justification for their moral reasoning on contemporary ethical issues that are prominent in the newspapers, media, and the culture at-large.

4) Employ philosophical concepts from major ethical theories in order to analyze and evaluate viewpoints and assumptions.


Course Description

See above.

What to Expect in this Course

See above.

Types of Assessments

Generally, we will have several timed tests consisting of written and multiple-choice questions, as well as various written assignments, including discussions.

Textbook Information

See above.

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

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  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

Often the pressure on our students is very strong, involving academic commitments, relationships, outside jobs and family pressure to name a few. The staff and faculty of College of the Canyons are here to see you succeed academically and care about your emotional and physical health. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including counseling and mental health services available on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the Student Services Building (across from the bookstore). The phone number is 661-362-3259 that you can call 24/7. You can also e mail for an appointment at At the Canyon Country Campus the Health Center will be in the new Student Services Building.

Also, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number is now 988. All students at COC are encouraged to enter that phone number in their cells. You can call it when you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress.

You can also now use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. Someone will get back to you immediately. Its free, 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


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Last updated: 05/21/2021 Sub#: 12