Philosophy (PHIL) 350

Ethics (Revision 2)

PHIL 350 Course Cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: None. A prior course in philosophy is recommended.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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PHIL 350 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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Welcome to Philosophy 350: Ethics, a senior-level, three-credit course that provides an in-depth and comprehensive overview of the major figures in the western tradition of ancient, modern, and contemporary thought on questions of moral theory and ethics. This overview comprises a combination of thematic and historical elements. Three distinct moral themes are studied: deontology, or the ethics of right and wrong; virtue ethics, or the ethics of honour and dishonour; and utilitarianism, or the ethics of pleasure and pain. Each theme is, in turn, played out historically according to the various figures who were associated with its development over time. The development of each theme is shaped by criticism coming from proponents of the other two themes as well as from within. Disagreement and debate arise over questions like: Is there only one way to live a moral life? If free will is an illusion, is morality also an illusion? Can you act in your own self-interest and act ethically at the same time? Is human reason nothing more than “the slave of the passions”? Is belief in a deity necessary for moral development? The result is a virtual moral dialogue which you are invited to join.


The course has an introductory chapter and the remaining nine units are divided into three parts, each of which is divided into three units.

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Ethics

Part One: Deontology - The Ethics of Right and Wrong

  • Unit 2: Plato (Antiquity) and St. Augustine (The Middle Ages)
  • Unit 3: Immanuel Kant (The Enlightenment)
  • Unit 4: C. A. Campbell, John Rawls, and Susan Moller Okin (The Twentieth Century)

Part Two: Virtue Ethics - The Ethics of Honour and Dishonour

  • Unit 5: Aristotle (Antiquity) and St. Thomas Aquinas (The Middle Ages)
  • Unit 6: David Hume and Mary Wollstonecraft (The Enlightenment)
  • Unit 7: Alasdair MacIntyre and Nel Noddings (Twentieth Century)

Part Three: Utilitarianism - The Ethics of Pleasure and Pain

  • Unit 8: Epicurus (Antiquity) and Thomas Hobbes (Early Modern)
  • Unit 9: John Stuart Mill (The Enlightenment)
  • Unit 10: G. E. Moore and R. M. Hare (Twentieth Century)


To receive credit for PHIL 350, you must complete all assignments and achieve a composite course grade of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Tutor-marked Exercise 1 20%
Tutor-marked Exercise 2 40%
Final Exam 40%
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


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Oliver A. Johnson and Andrews Reath, Ethics: selections from classical and contemporary writers, 11th edition Boston, MA:Wadsworth, 2012.

A print version of the eText may be available for purchase from the publisher through a direct-to-student link provided on the course website; you can also acquire the textbook on your own if you wish.

Other Resources

All other materials are available online.

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 350 challenge registration, you must achieve an overall grade of at least D (50 percent).

Activity Weighting
Essay 60%
Exam 40%
Total 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 2, June 11, 2013.

View previous syllabus