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"Belisarius" 1781, by Jacques Louis David


Steven W. Patterson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies Dept., Marygrove College

Contact Information

Office Phone: 313-927-1539
Departmental Phone: 313-927-1556
e-mail: Note: The best way to reach me is via e-mail. Remove the underscores before and after the '@' or just use this Contact form.
Office:346 Madame Cadillac Hall
Office Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 10:00-10:30 AM & 12:30-1:00 PM If you need to see me it is recommended that you schedule an appointment.

Course Information

Meeting Times: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30-11:45 PM in LA 242
Credit Hours: 3, Satisfies General Education Requirements
Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or equivalent)

Course Objectives

The principal aim of this course is to afford the student introductory exposure to classic and contemporary philosophical positions and thinkers in moral philosophy. Together as colleagues we will investigate diverse accounts of moral value and its sources, and the importance of clear and careful moral thinking to a refined sense of justice. A student who successfully completes the course requirements will thus achieve broad familiarity with a wide range of concepts and theoretical frameworks for understanding and discussing moral issues.

Possession of a rich conceptual framework for thinking about moral issues is essential for for understanding, articulating, reflecting on, and critically appraising one’s own moral values. It is also essential for the larger task of understanding, reflecting, and critically appraising the values of one’s social and political context. Leadership especially requires genuine moral clarity, and an ability to engage with the moral values of others in a thoughtful and respectful way. Thus those who would be leaders in any context must be able to demonstrate clear moral thinking and to communicate their thinking to others in a context of diverse moral understandings and positions. Hence the second objective of this course is the cultivation a more refined understanding of moral value in general, both for purposes of self-refection and for purposes of social engagement.

Also integral to leadership is the ability to read, write, and think critically and carefully about difficult problems that resist easy solution. Hence the third objective of this course is the enhancement of students’ critical thinking abilities through the exercise of the analytical and imaginative skills that form the core of the philosophical method. We will devote substantial class time to honing these skills, and we will apply them in our discussions and especially to our writing assignments throughout the term. Because they are so widely applicable to concrete problems, development of the sort of critical thinking skills that make up the philosophical method is an essential part of general education, and one of the chief benefits of a course of this nature.

Finally, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements, in doing so, will have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Core Question

  1. What kinds of claims are moral claims? What grounds them (i.e. what justifies them, or gives them force)? Are they, for instance grounded in our common human nature? Are they claims of reason? Are moral claims somehow grounded in the nature of the world? Are they just expressions of individual preferences, or perhaps of social preferences? What do you think?
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