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Contemporary Ethical Issues (RS 361)

(Class Number: 13510)

Spring 2015
Instructor: Albert Tevanyan


Telephone: (818) 677-6875

Class hours & Classroom: MW 11:00 am -12:15 pm. & SH 314

Office hours: Monday 12: 30 – 1:30pm. SN 418 Santa Susana Hall
Course Description:
This course aims to introduce the students to the multi-faceted and complex nature of morality and ethics taking into consideration the wealth of various religious and intellectual traditions and approaches. We will begin the course with an overview of ethical reasoning in antiquity, particularly, how Plato and Aristotle treated the philosophical principles of ethics. We will then examine how ethics was shaped by various religious and cultural belief systems, including Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic schools of thought. We will also discuss how morality and ethics were influenced by some of the Enlightenment thinkers and how contemporary ethical issues are treated today in light of Post-Modern thought. Among the issues to be discussed are rational foundations of moral judgment, bio-ethics, gender issues, human freedom, environment, the question of “ethical economy”, violence and war, secularization and various concepts of religious piety.
RS 361 SLO’s in Contemporary Ethical Issues

1. Students will be able to think logically and analytically about various religious traditions.

2. Students will demonstrate familiarity with the basic contents and major themes in various religious traditions.

3. Students will be able to distinguish between the religious/faith and Historical/Critical approaches to sacred texts and dogmas.

4. Be able to contextualize religious ethics in Post-Modern Society

5. Acquire knowledge of the influence that various religious traditions have had on modern human civilization.

6. Understand religious diversity in the United States.
RS 361 GE SLO’s
Goal: Students will understand the rich history and diversity of human knowledge, discourse and achievements of their own and other cultures as they are expressed in the arts, literatures, religions, and philosophy.
Students will:

  1. Explain and reflect critically upon the human search for meaning, values, discourse and

expression in one or more areas, periods or cultures;

  1. Analyze, interpret, and reflect critically upon ideas of value, meaning, discourse and

expression from a variety of perspectives from the arts and/or humanities;

  1. Produce work/works of art that communicate to a diverse audience through a demonstrated

understanding and fluency of expressive forms;

  1. Demonstrate ability to engage and reflect upon their intellectual and creative development

within the arts and humanities;

  1. Use appropriate critical vocabulary to describe and analyze works of artistic expression,

literature, philosophy, or religion and a comprehension of the historical context within which

a body of work was created or a tradition emerged;

  1. Describe and explain the historical and/or cultural context within which a body of work was

created or a tradition emerged.
Texts for this course:

1.Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction: Second Edition. Harry J. Gensler. New York: Routledge, 2011

2. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?. Michael J. Sandel. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010

Additional Electronic books available online (selected chapters)

3.The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice and Religious creativity. Willis Jenkins. (Washington DC: George Town University press, 2013)

4. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant

5. The Routledge Companion to Ethics. John Skorupski ed.

6.Comparative Religious Ethics, A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics, Darrel J. Fasching et. al. (Blackwell Publishing, 2011)

7. The Second Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration, John Locke

8. Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche

9. Euthypro, Plato

10. The Republic, Plato

11. Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle

Course Requirements:

Tests and Exams:

Midterm and Final.

There will be two main examinations: a midterm and a final. For the dates of the exams see Moodle. All exams are on Moodle, however students need to be present in class during the test.

Midterm: 40 questions. 20 multiple choice (2 points each) and 20 true and false (1 point each). Total: 60 points.

Final: 40 questions. 20 multiple choice (2 points each) and 20 true and false (1 point each). Total: 60 points. The final grade for the course will be calculated based on the average of online quizzes, writing assignments, the midterm and the final.

Online Reading Quizzes:
All online quizzes will be based on the reading material. We will have two online quizzes before the midterm and two before the final. Students will take total of 4 online quizzes during the entire course.

Each online quiz will have 10 questions (1 point each question, multiple choice). All tests are online, however students need to be present in class during the test (you may use your reading notes during the test). A Study guide for the Midterm and the Final exams will be posted on Moodle a week prior to the test.

Attendance is 40 points. Present – 2 points, Late – 1 point. Absent – 0 points.
Writing assignments
There will be 4 short essays on the assigned readings. 3 p. min. Students need to upload them on Moodle. Each paper is 10 points. See below for dates.

Major research paper is 15 p. min. (60 points). Students may choose a topic for research from the list of topics posted on Moodle. Also see writing instructions on Moodle.

An extra credit (30 extra points) opportunity will also be available for this course. Students volunteering for EC will have to participate in an oral debate (or presentation) on a controversial ethical issue with another student. Students may either argue their research paper topic or May choose a different topic for the debate. (It would be prudent to make arrangements with other students (potential opponents) for the possible debate and to pick a date as soon as possible).
Grading: your grades will be computed based on the following:

a. Your final grade will be based on the average of all the assignments.

Oral debate

30 extra points

Reading Quiz 1

10 points

Reading Quiz 2

10 points

Reading Quiz 3

10 points

Reading Quiz 4

10 points

Short Essay 1

10 points

Short Essay 2

10 points

Short Essay 3

10 points

Short Essay 4

10 points

Midterm Exam

60 Points

Final Exam

60 Points

Main Research Paper

60 Points


40 points

Course total

300 +(30 EC)

Grading scale: Plus/minus grading system will be implemented. There will be no A+ grade.




100.00 %

93.00 %


92.99 %

90.00 %


89.99 %

87.00 %


86.99 %

83.00 %


82.99 %

80.00 %


79.99 %

77.00 %


76.99 %

73.00 %


72.99 %

70.00 %


69.99 %

67.00 %


66.99 %

60.00 %


59.99 %

0.00 %


Academic Integrity:

Cheating and plagiarism are not tolerated. Any form of plagiarism will result in a failing grade. The following violations of academic integrity will be addressed formally:

  • Submitting the same work in whole or in part in more than one course;

  • Submitting as one’s own work material (s) obtained from another source;

  • Unattributed quotations or ideas from published, unpublished or electronic sources;

  • Unauthorized collaboration in preparing assignments;

  • Cheating on exams by any means: using search engines, lecture notes (unless permitted by the instructor) during the test

  • During the tests, logging in and taking the test not being present in class.


January 21


Syllabus, Definition of Ethics and Morality.

Reading: Euthyphro (Short Essay #1).

Gensler: Ethics: A contemporary Introduction pp. 1-7

January 26 to 28


Rational Foundations of Morality: Religion, Natural Law Theory and Utilitarianism

Reading: Darrel J. Fasching, Comparative Religious Ethics

Sandel, Justice: Chapter 2 “The Greatest Happiness Principle” pp. 61-81

February 3 to 5

Reading Material Discussion

Ethical Theories

Reading: The Routledge Companion to Ethics: Ethics, Science and Religion

Gensler, Ethics, pp. 8 – 55

February 9 to 11

Feb. 9th. Short Essay #1 on “Euthypro” due

Ethical Theories continued.

Reading: Gensler, Ethics, 56-124

Plato, The Republic (Short Essay #2)

Reading Quiz #1 on Feb. 11th.

Discussion of the reading material

February 16 to 18

Teleological and Deontological Ethics

Reading: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Sandel, Justice, Chapter 5 “What Matters is the Motive” pp. 202-228

The Routledge Companion to Ethics: John Stuart Mill

February 23 to 25

Ethics, Metaphysics and Asceticism in Christianity and Islam

Preparation for the Reading Quiz

Reading: Comparative Religious Ethics, Islamic Stories.

March 3 to 5

March 3rd Short Essay #2 on “Republic” due

Theories of Reality, Perception and Human Consciousness

Ethics, Metaphysics and Asceticism in Hinduism and Buddhism

Reading: The Routledge Companion to Ethics: Ethical Thought in India

March 5. Reading Quiz # 2

March 9 to 11

Human Destiny, determinism and predestination

Augustinian and Calvinist understanding of human depravity

Societal vs. devotional ethics

Islam: Shariah vs. Tariqah

Christianity: Grace vs. Law

Reading: Routledge Companion to Ethics: Ethics and Reason (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz )

March 16 to 18

Lecture overview

Preparation for the Midterm Exam

March 18th. Midterm Exam
March 23 to 25

Social Justice, Government and Natural Rights.

Ethics of Economy and Distribution of Wealth

Reading: John Locke, A Second Treatise of Government…,

Sandel, Justice, Chapter 3 “ Do We Own Ourselves?” pp. 114-146

March 30th to April 1

Overview of the reading material

Reading: Francis Galton: Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (Short Essay #3)

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Also for the Short Essay #3)

Preparation for the Reading Quiz

April 1st Reading Quiz# 3


Spring Recess
April 13 to 15

Apr. 13th. Short Essay # 3 (on Galton and Nietzsche ) due

Human Evolution, Competition and Survival

Imperialism, Colonization and Racial Tensions

Discussion of Galton and Nietzsche

Reading: Comparative Religious Ethics: War and Peace

Willis Jenkins, The Future of Ethics: Impoverishment

April 21 to 23

Types of government, human rights and civil disobedience

Environmental Ethics

Reading: Comparative Religious Ethics: Just war theory

Supreme Court Decisions on Controversial Ethical Issues: Case Studies (Short Essay # 4)

Sandel, Ethics, Chapter 10 “Justice and the Common Good” pp. 483-533

April 27 to 29

Apr. 27th. Main Research Paper Due.

Controversial Ethical Issues

Gender Issues, Bio-Ethics

Student debates and presentations

Apr. 29th Reading Quiz # 4


May 4 to 6

May 4th Short Essay # 4 due

Student debates and presentations

Lecture Overview: Preparation for the Final Exam

FINAL EXAMINATION: May. 13th 2015. SH 314 (10:15 am-12:15pm)

Directory: sites -> default -> files
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files -> Dr amanda wise & dr jan ali commonwealth of Australia 2008

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