Philosophy (PHIL) 255

Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Society (Revision 1)

PHIL 255 course cover

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: None

Precluded: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Philosophy Studies home page

PHIL 255 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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Philosophy 255: Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Society is a three-credit course that introduces you to philosophy by exploring and analyzing leading ethical theories and the application of those theories to matters of social concern.

There are no prerequisites for this course, but you are expected to have university-level analytical and writing skills.

Learning Outcomes

After completing PHIL 255, you should be able to do the following:

  • Recognize how core philosophical topics and theories arise from relatable human and social experiences.
  • Explain how ethical concepts and principles can be applied constructively to contemporary issues of social debate.
  • Analyze the application of ethical concepts and principles to contemporary issues of social debate.
  • Communicate thoughts clearly, cogently, and reasonably in a manner that corresponds to the standards of academic philosophy.


PHIL 255 is divided into thirteen units:

  • Unit 1 – Introducing Philosophy
  • Unit 2 – Moral Relativism
  • Unit 3 – Divine Command Theory
  • Unit 4 – Ethical Egoism
  • Unit 5 – Utilitarianism
  • Unit 6 – Kantian Ethics
  • Unit 7 – Virtue Ethics
  • Unit 8 – Sex and the Ethics of Gay Rights
  • Unit 9 – Bullshit and the Ethics of Advertising
  • Unit 10 – Birth and the Ethics of Abortion
  • Unit 11 – Death and the Ethics of Euthanasia
  • Unit 12 – Hunger and the Ethical Response to Extreme Poverty
  • Unit 13 – Technology and Humanity


To receive credit for PHIL 255, you must achieve a composite course grade of at least D (50 percent).

Assignment Weight
Assignment 1: Two Short Essays 20%
Assignment 2: OER Evaluation 10%
Assignment 3: Two Short Essays 20%
Active Participation 15%
Final Exam 35%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Vice & Virtue in Everyday Life: Introductory Readings in Ethics. 9th edition. Edited by Christina Hoff Sommers and Fred Sommers. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013.

Other Materials

Additional readings and multimedia resources are provided online and embedded in the Study Guide.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the PHIL 255 challenge registration, you must achieve an overall grade of at least D (50 percent).

Essay 1 Essay 2 Total
50% 50% 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, July 14, 2020.