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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

PHIL 1021: Introduction to Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Aesthetics

Students are engaged in careful study of ethics (theories of right and wrong), political philosophy (theories of justifiable social organization), and aesthetics (theories of beauty, specifically Philosophy of Art). What is the difference between what is pleasurable and what is good? Is democracy always best? How should we distinguish between works of art and works of craft? Students explore these types of questions using tools developed by philosophers including Canadian philosopher Wil Waluchow's introductory text, Plato's dialogues, and readings in the Philosophy of Art.

Learning outcomes

The main purposes of PHIL 1021 are to familiarize students with traditional and sometimes conflicting philosophical models of ethics, politics and aesthetics or Philosophy of Art, and provide students with a reasoned basis for their critical evaluation.

Specifically, when students have completed this course, they should be able to:

  • Describe and explain the similarities and differences between the principal ethical theories: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics.
  • Describe and explain the similarities and differences between the principal political theories: liberalism, conservatism, and paternalism.
  • Describe and explain the principal theories of art: representational, institutional, and aesthetic.
  • Critically evaluate all the above theories.
  • State your own positions on ethics, politics and aesthetics in response to the theories presented in the course.

Course topics

  • Unit 1: Philosophy of Values
  • Unit 2: Ethical Theories
  • Unit 3: Political Philosophy: Freedom and the Rule of Law
  • Unit 4: Aesthetics: You Call That Art?

Required text and materials

The following material is required for this course:

  1. Waluchow, W. The Dimensions of Ethics: an Introduction to Ethical Theory. Peterborough: Broadview Press. (2003).
    Type: Textbook. ISBN: 1-55111-450-X

The following Open Education Resources (OER) textbook, free of charge, is required for this course:

  1. Project Gutenberg's Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Socrates, by Plato. (2004).


Please be aware that should your course have a final exam, you are responsible for the fee to the online proctoring service, ProctorU, or to the in-person approved Testing Centre. Please contact with any questions about this.

To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course, and 50% or higher on the final mandatory exam.

Assignment 1: Application of Ethics Theory to the Water Access Issue 20%
Assignment 2: Application of Political Philosophy Theory to the Issue of Homelessness 20%
Assignment 3: Aesthetic Theory - What is Art? 20%
Final Exam (mandatory) 40%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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