Syllabus for PHI-286

Contemporary Ethics


Contemporary Ethics is a broad introduction to the discipline of ethics, which is the study of morality and critical analysis of moral theories. Though we may not all agree on the details, for most of humanity it seems as if certain actions are right or good, while other actions are wrong or bad. It seems like some ways of living are better than other ways of living. The discipline of ethics can then be thought of as the practice of asking important philosophical questions about right and wrong, good and bad. This course explores topics in ethical theory such as relativism, egoism, and consequentialism, as well as issues in applied ethics such as the moral status of abortion, poverty, and euthanasia. Emphasis is placed on learning key ideas and arguments, as well as developing the ability to articulate and critically evaluate those ideas and arguments through course activities.



After completing this course, you should be able to:

CO1        Explain a wide variety of viewpoints in ethical theory, such as objectivism, egoism, and utilitarianism.

CO2        Identify the key terms relevant to discussing and understanding ethical theory and practice.

CO3        Analyze logical, philosophical arguments pertaining to important ethical issues from a number of historically significant figures.

CO4        Evaluate such arguments for their soundness and persuasiveness.

CO5        Defend viewpoints on important ethical issues by constructing unique arguments.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook is available from the University’s textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbook

        ISBN: 978-0190631314

        ISBN: 978-0190631390


Contemporary Ethics is a three-credit, online course consisting of six modules, including six discussion forums, 12 written assignments, two quizzes, and two exams. Modules include an overview, topics, learning objectives, study materials, and activities. Module titles are listed below.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in six online discussion forums, complete 12 written assignments, take two quizzes, a proctored midterm examination, and a final examination. See below for details.

Consult the Course Calendar for due dates.

Discussion Forums

In addition to posting a discussion thread in the Introductions Forum, you are required to participate in six additional graded online discussions. These class discussions, like the written assignments, are an opportunity to share your insights and understanding of contemporary ethics.

Your initial post should be no fewer than 150 words. Do your best to make your responses thoughtful and engaging. Try to think of a substantive question to ask, raise a possible objection, or make a connection to another important idea. Brief responses that communicate little more than “Great post!” or “I agree!” will not be accepted.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete 12 written assignments. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules. For six of the written assignments, you will be responding to questions related to the readings. For the other six, you will write essays pertaining to the topics in the modules. For each essay, you should have at least one citation in proper APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, or IEEE format.


You are required to take two formative quizzes. These quizzes will help you review basic terminology and concepts; they will help you prepare for the midterm and final examinations. All quiz questions are multiple choice. You may use any materials that you like in taking the quizzes; the module notes, in particular, may be helpful. There is no time limit for taking each quiz and they are unproctored.

You are encouraged to take the quizzes multiple times for additional practice. You will see some new questions each time. The gradebook will record your most recent score.


For a list of key concepts that may appear on your exams, refer to the exam study guides available in the Examinations section of the course website.

You are required to take two proctored online examinations: a midterm exam and a final exam. Both exams require that you use the University's Online Proctor Service (OPS). Please refer to the Examinations and Proctors section of the Online Student Handbook (see General Information area of the course website) for further information about scheduling and taking online exams and for all exam policies and procedures. You are strongly advised to schedule your exam within the first week of the semester.

Online exams are administered through the course website. Consult the Course Calendar for the official dates of exam weeks.

Midterm Examination

The midterm exam consists of essay questions and covers material from Modules 1, 2, and 3. The exam is two hours long and is closed-book.

Final Examination

The final exam consists of essay questions and covers material from Modules 4, 5, and 6. The exam is two hours long and is closed-book.

Statement about Cheating

You are on your honor not to cheat during the exam. Cheating means:

If there is evidence that you have cheated or plagiarized in your exam, the exam will be declared invalid, and you will fail the course.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a course not in your area of study), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > Citing Sources.)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance and originality report checking, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Originality Report Checking at Turnitin

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Edison State University. All rights reserved.