Ethics Textbook Project: Chapter: Secular Ethics
Objective: To effectively guide students in structuring and writing chapter on an
introduction to ethics for their Ethics Textbook Project.
Important Note on Transitions!: Work on your transitions! Reflect on your organization and order. I have presented an order of what is listed below – think about that order before you answer the questions. This will help your transitions from one topic to the next.
Secular Ethics. The objective of this chapter is to discuss and explain Secular Ethics, defining it in general and highlighting what makes it distinct.
Chapter Beginning. Chapter should begin with paragraph(s) on how just as the Christian tradition has developed its own understanding of ethics, so have a few Western secular traditions. Those that stand out as most significant are virtue ethics, deontological ethics, and consequentialist ethics. Each has its own particular understanding of what makes an act good or bad, but what they all share in common is that they try to found ethics off of reason alone – they do not require faith. Transition! Refer back to your moral story from the first chapter. Ask how these traditions of ethics might reflect on the story.
Chapter Body. Chapter should then transition to a discussion of how in Christian ethics, each part of the moral act had to be considered good for the moral act itself to be good. That, however, is not the case with the different secular ethical traditions. Each tradition emphasizes the importance of one part over the others. The following list must then be included in your chapter. Strongly suggest structuring the chapter in the order presented:
1. Aristotle and Virtue Ethics
a. Brief biography.
b. Telos. Fundamental teaching of Aristotle is that everything has a natural purpose, telos , or, “that for the sake of which a thing exists or is done.” The purpose of a human being is to be happy.
c. Virtue and Vice. To be happy, a person must act with virtue. Define virtue and the Golden Mean (actions that are not excessive or deficient). Describe vice (acts that are not of the Golden Mean but are too much or too little). Use examples, if you can from your moral scenario.
Human Nature. Aristotle understands a person is a rational animal. Describe the parts of the rational animal (non-rational and rational; appetitive and vegetative; concupiscible and irascible; will and practical intellect).
e. The Cardinal Virtues and the parts of the human person. Show how Aristotle understands the cardinal virtues as ordering the parts of the human person.
f. The Four Characters. Discuss how Aristotle understands that people are of four different kinds of character (the Virtuous, the Vicious, the Continent, and the Incontinent).
g. The moral act. Discuss your scenario in reference to Aristotle and how the good is an act done with virtue.
h. Compare with Christianity.
2. Kant and Deontological Ethics.
a. Brief biography. Include discussion on Kant’s desire to make ethics not based on religious authority, but on reason alone.
b. Deontololgy. Fundamental teaching of Kant’s ethics is that it should be duty-based.
c. Goodwill. Actions themselves are neutral. What makes an act good or bad is the intention of the person. The intention should be to obey the moral law. One has goodwill if one intends to follow the moral law. An act is good if one intended to follow the moral law. Consequences do not matter.
d. The categorical imperative. Define and describe the two formulations: Universal Law and the End In Itself.
e. The moral act. Discuss your scenario in reference to Kant and how the good is an act done with goodwill.
f. Compare with Christianity.
3. Mills and Consequentialism.
a. Brief biography. Include discussion on Mill’s desire to make ethics not based on religious authority, but on reason alone.
b. Utilitarianism and Consequentialism. Fundamental teaching of Mills is that moral actions should be judged on the consequences – “the greatest happiness for the greatest people”.
c. Utility. Discuss the Principle of Utility – define it and apply to your moral scenario.
d. Happiness. Discuss what Mills understands by happiness.
e. The moral act. Discuss how a utilitarian determines how to act. Refer
to your scenario.
Compare with Christianity
g. Compare and Contrast the three Secular Ethical Traditions.
Chapter Ending. Chapter should then end with a few paragraphs that reflect on what you think about the Western ethical traditions. How do you see the benefit or deficiency in each and what good you think studying ethics has done for you.
Chapter Expectations. Your chapter, in addition to the above requirements, is expected to be written as follows:
● Proper MLA format (12 point, double-spaced, etc.)
● Grammatically correct (proofread at least two times!!!)
● Minimum of two pages
Several days late. Many requirements were not met. Author makes excessive mistakes in grammar, spelling, or punctuation that distract the reader from the content.
One day late. Almost all of the requirements were met. Author makes few errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation that distract the reader from the content.
The paragraphs include few to none of the necessary required points.
Many terms not correctly defined or understood.
The paragraphs include all but one or two of the required necessary points.
One or two terms not correctly defined or understood.
The organization of some or all of the paragraphs make for a difficult read because of poor sentence structure or lack of transitions.
The sequence of paragraphs is not logical.
Each of the paragraphs includes a well-written topic sentence, sentences with supporting details, transitions, and a wrap-up sentence.
The logical ordering of paragraphs is clear.
The moral scenario is insufficient and does not fulfill what was required of it. It is not able to be adapted. Story is rarely or poorly referred back to to illustrate concepts covered.
The moral scenario is creative and with a robustness that is able to be adapted. Story is occasionally referred back to to illustrate concepts covered.
There is no unique, creative expression of material. The author’s “voice” is absent as content is copied from prompts. Introduction is undeveloped. Transitions are poor; essential material is presented in “checklist” fashion. and important information is absent. The chapter is not summed up.
Unique and creative expression of material present, the author’s “voice” is mostly present as material is mostly rephrased from prompts. The introduction is mostly effective. The conclusion is recognizable.