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Course Catalog

700.603.01 Introduction to Ethical Theory

Berman Institute (Bioethics)
1st term
3 credits
Academic Year:
2019 - 2020
East Baltimore
Class Times:
  • Tuesday,  3:30 - 6:20pm
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Travis Rieder
Course Instructor :
  • Travis N. Rieder



Explores the relationship between philosophical ethical theory and the practical world of bioethics. In particular, examines the classical accounts of moral obligation and virtue in the context of a variety of contemporary bioethical problems. Further presents the distinction between individual bioethics and collective bioethics, with the goal of determining how the theoretical grounding for these fields differ. The motivating questions are both methodological and substantive: First, how does theory contribute to bioethical investigations? And second, does reflection on ethical theory tell us what to do concerning particular, bioethical problems?

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and articulate the theoretical underpinnings of particular moral claims
  2. Apply various theoretical tools to particular, concrete cases
  3. Identify the weaknesses of moral positions as a result of those positions' theoretical assumptions
  4. Defend a methodological position concerning the value and use of theory in bioethics
  5. Defend a substantive position concerning the correct moral theory
Methods of Assessment:

Participation: 10%, Weekly Argument Reconstructions: 30%, Short Midterm Paper: 20%, Final Exam: 40%

Enrollment Restriction:

Enrollment priority given to MBE students

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

Consent required for undergraduate students

For consent, contact:

Special Comments:

Course meets in Deering Hall; LLC Room