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Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 324: Topics in Ethics

PHIL 324: Topics in Ethics

The Generic Catalog Description

Issues selected from all fields of moral theory and metaethics.


PHIL 324: Topics in Ethics: Ethical-Legal Issues at the Frontiers of Medicine

Heidi Malm

This course in bioethics is designed for philosophy majors and bioethics minors.  It will address a number of controversial ethical issues at medicine's frontier, each of which has a strong legal component.  To put it in another way, the course it will examine a number of cutting-edge issues in bioethics which have a significant impact on or for legal rights, legal duties, and/or legal policy. The exact topics that the course will cover in any given semester cannot be specified in advance because (a) the "frontier" or "cutting edge" of medicine changes from year to year and (b) students will have a hand in
picking some of the topics to be covered in that semester.  However, topics in prior semesters have focused on issues relating to (a) the body as property, (b) advances in genetic science and engineering, (c) reproduction, (d) research ethics and policy, (e) medical advertising and promotion, and (f) public health and preventive medicine. Where possible, the course will incorporate rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court (or the high courts in various states) along with the contemporary philosophic/ethical literature. However, the course will always remain a "philosophy" course asking what "ought to be" as opposed to a course reporting what currently "is" the legal case.  Further, because "cutting edge" issues can arise at anytime, the structure and time-line of the course will remain flexible so as to accommodate relevant issues as they hit the news. Students not comfortable with that flexibility should not take the course.

It is expected that students who enroll in this upper division philosophy course will have some college-level background in ethical or social or legal theory. Ideally, this background will consist of at least one lower-division course in value-theory, broadly construed, such as Phil 181, 182, 184, 185, as well as an upper division course in a more specialized area of ethical-legal-political philosophy. Students without this background may be permitted to enroll, but such students should expect to do additional readings to bring them up to the level of the class. Also, it is expected that students who enroll in this course will be willing and able to do independent, self-directed study (including finding an issue, researching it, and deciding what is
ethically-philosophically important) and lead a discussion (likely as part of a group of 3-4) on a medical/legal topic of their choosing. In other words, students who expect the instructor to tell them everything they need to memorize to get a high grade in the course should definitely not take this course lass.  Further, all students taking this course should expect to spend 6-9 hours every week on homework. Students whose work/school/personal schedule precludes this 6-9 commitment should not sign up for this course.


PHIL 324: Topics in Ethics: Lincoln's Ethics

Thomas Carson

Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as the greatest US President and the most influential person in American history.  More has been published about Lincoln than any historical figure, save Jesus Christ. His rise from extreme poverty – and a formal education that lasted less than one year – to become a prominent attorney, President, and one of the greatest masters of English prose, is the stuff of myth.   Unlike most other great historical leaders, Lincoln is typically regarded as a singularly good and virtuous human being.  Lincoln was “Honest Abe,” a man moved by deep compassion and a strong sense of justice to oppose and ultimately abolish slavery.  He was a resolute and determined commander-in-chief whose compassion for the immense suffering caused by the American Civil War made him “a man of sorrows.”  In recent years this assessment of Lincoln has been challenged by a number of scholars who have called him a “racist” and criticized him for not supporting the abolition of slavery until late in the Civil War.  Lincoln’s personal life has also become the subject of criticism by some scholars.  While such scholarship has not become part of the generally accepted interpretation of Lincoln’s legacy, it does mark the emergence of a new and more complex process of examination and assessment.

We will begin the course by reading David Herbert Donald’s biography of Lincoln.  We will read parts of Mill’s Utilitarianism and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics to provide the needed philosophical background.  Aristotle will help us assess Lincoln’s character – his virtues and vices.   Mill bears more on his public actions and, in particular, his actions as commander in chief, his commitment to obeying the law (and opposing slavery within the limits set by the law), his political compromises with a strongly anti-abolitionist and deeply racist public opinion – especially in Illinois, and his “expediency” and alleged ruthlessness as a politician.  After having read Donald, Aristotle, and Mill, we will be in a position to read and assess William Lee Miller’s book,  Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography.   Miller’s assessment of Lincoln’s character and public actions  (on a whole a very favorable one) will be the point of departure for a series of classroom debates concerning Lincoln’s character and actions.   Those debates will dominate the last half of the course.


PHIL 324: Topics in Ethics: Professional Ethics in the Health Professions

David Ozar

This course focuses on: (i.) the foundations and contents of professional ethics, with specific emphasis on professional ethics in the health professions (especially medicine, nursing, and dentistry); on (ii.) the role and weight of professional ethics within the moral/ethical reasoning of professionals; and on (iii.) careful philosophical reflection about both of these topics.  Regarding the latter theme, when moral/ethical reflection is focused on social institutions, such as the professions and their ethics, its method is what I call “Social Ethical Analysis”; and one goal of the course is to familiarize students with how this method of moral/ethical reflection works by employing in relation to the professional ethics of the health professions.  In addition, during the course of the semester, students will be introduced to a number of the most important professional ethical issues in current U.S. health care and will learn to reason clearly and carefully about them from the perspective of the health professions’ ethics and, ideally, from the perspective of Social Ethical Analysis as an approach to moral/ethical reflection about the health professions’ ethics.

The course will begin with a brief overview of the method of Social Ethical Analysis, of the Decision-Model that will be used in the course, and of the five approaches to moral/ethical thinking just mentioned.  The first major topic will be the characteristics of professions and the foundations of their ethics.  The main part of the course will be a study of the ethics of the three emphasized professions (medicine, dentistry, and nursing), perhaps individually but most likely comparatively, in conjunction with cases illustrating the three professions’ ethics “at work” and cases for the students to reflect on and come to moral/ethical judgments about from the point of view of the three professions’ ethics. From time to time in this part of the course, and especially in the final part of the course, students will be challenged to do moral/ethical reflection about the professional ethical of these (and possibly other) professions.


PHIL 324: Topics in Ethics: Reproduction and Reproductive Technologies

Jennifer Parks

This course will provide a comprehensive overview of the field of human reproduction, considering some of the biological, physiological, and genetic issues that it raises. We will also explore the many ethical, legal, social justice, and health issues related to the new reproductive technologies, as well as public policy that has been formulated regarding reproduction.

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