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Introduction to Ethical Theory

East Baltimore
1st Term
Berman Institute (Bioethics)
Academic Year
2023 - 2024
Instruction Method
Class Time(s)
Thursday, 3:30 - 6:20pm
Auditors Allowed
Yes, with instructor consent
Available to Undergraduate
Grading Restriction
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor(s)
Contact Name
Frequency Schedule
Every Year


Explores the relationship between philosophical ethical theory and the practical world of bioethics. Examines the classical accounts of moral obligation and virtue in the context of a variety of contemporary bioethical problems. Presents the distinction between individual bioethics and collective bioethics, with the goal of determining how the theoretical grounding for these fields differ. Answers both methodological and substantive motivating questions: First, how does theory contribute to bioethical investigations? 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
This course is evaluated as follows:
  • 10% Participation
  • 30% Weekly Argument Reconstructions
  • 20% Midterm Paper
  • 40% Final Exam
Enrollment Restriction
Enrollment priority given to MBE students, Bioethics Certificate students, Berman Postdocs & bioethics focused PhD students