The ethics minor provides students with the ability to recognize ethical issues and to think critically to resolve them, both generally and within their chosen discipline. Students also learn how ethical problems can result from complex social structures and how changing structural features may avoid ethical problems. Three courses in philosophy are required plus two electives from the approved list, at least one of which must be outside philosophy. Only one 100-level course may be counted as part of the minor.
Notes about this minor:
This minor is closed to students majoring in philosophy.
Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements.
This course is a survey of foundational, and normative, approaches to moral philosophy and their motivating moral questions. Topics will include virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism, and other approaches. Some of the questions to be examined are: How is human nature related to morality? What are the grounds for moral obligations? Is there an ultimate moral principle? How do we reason about what to do? Can reason determine how we ought to live? What are moral judgments? Are there universal goods? What constitutes a morally worthwhile life? Can morality itself be challenged? Lecture 3 (Fall).
This course examines the theoretical basis of ethics and morality, namely the theoretical commitments that enter into any judgment that a particular action is right or wrong, with special emphasis on a particular thinker or theoretical approach. Topics may include different ways of understanding the concepts of right and wrong; the existence or non-existence of moral facts; different criteria of moral actions; different conceptions of the good life. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in philosophy is required.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Choose three of the following:
Genetics and Society
Students will learn how genetic underpinnings of human health are discovered and how new discoveries impact societal values, prompting debates around ethical consideration of their use. (Prerequisites: BIOL-101 or BIOL-121 or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Crime, Justice, and Ethics
This course provides an introduction to ethical theories, consideration of justice as operationalized in contemporary criminal justice and emerging issues that accompany technological advancements such as video surveillance. Students will explore how ethical frameworks are embedded, implicitly and explicitly, in fundamental questions that are resolved by police, judges, and prosecutors. Conceptions of justice and criminal justice will be considered as they relate to criminological and criminal justice theories such as Procedural Justice/Legitimacy theories, Restorative Justice, as well as rationales for punishment. Implications for evaluation of technological changes in criminal justice will also be considered from the perspectives of ethical choices. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Ethics in the Digital Era
The course will examine various contemporary and global issues of digital citizenship and new ethical challenges raised by digital technology. The course will raise questions regarding how digital technology has changed citizenship practices: Who has access to full citizenship, and why? What responsibilities are entailed in digital citizenship? Themes may include the nature and value of digital technology; the relations between digital technologies and knowledge-making/meaning-making; the value of information privacy; the role of digital media in society and human interactions; issues arising from the life-cycle of new digital tools and data repositories; and questions broadly related to questions of accessibility, representation, and sustainability as applied to digital technologies. Topics may also include research ethics, piracy and file sharing, hacktivism, copyright and fair use, end-user license agreements, alternative news media, and participatory culture. Students will take up both broad ethical issues and specific professional codes and policy in diverse domains. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Economics, Ethics, and Society
This course introduces students to an historical overview of economic theories and policies with special emphasis on their ethical perspectives and implications. The course examines the main economic theories including, but not limited to, Classical Economics, Keynesian Macroeconomics, Austrian, and Marxist Economics. The course will also examine the ethical aspects of Capitalism, Feudalism, Socialism, and other economic forms. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Ethics in the Graphic Memoir
Graphic novels demonstrate a concern for constructed narrative within a visual structure, character development, and plot strategies. Graphic memoirs, or auto-graphic novels, tell true tales of human experiences and global events, exploring the boundaries between fact and fiction, public and private, interior and exterior, visual and textual, seen and unseen, traumatic pasts and their futures. Graphic memoirs are interested in how these distinctions, and the questions of individual and collective truth, transparency, and communicability they open onto, help to delineate ethical behavior and belief systems. Holding a mirror up to the multiple ways in which contemporary cultures frame and reframe individual and collective experience, graphic memoirs render their subjects’ and cultures’ ethical premises and guidelines explicit, and, therefore, enable readers to revisit, rethink, and redraw accepted ways of behaving, understanding, and circulating. Texts used in this course will be explored through this lens. We will focus on the ethical considerations and concerns conveyed in and by graphic memoirs in order to uncover unique forms of book-length sequential art, as well as enhance critical thinking about ethics and media literacy skills. Designated as writing intensive, this course emphasizes writing practices, recognizing the role writing plays in the formation of knowledge, and the framing of a specific academic specialization, as well as genre. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Engineering and the Developing World
This course helps students develop a system of holistic thinking about engineering pursuits which includes the natural environment, humans as individuals, economics, culture, institutions, policies, and civil society. Topics include research, design, dissemination, and evaluation techniques of the Human Centered Design Methodology (also called Design Thinking), Systems Practice tools for understanding complex problems, comparison of competing economic viewpoints, and evaluation of project case studies for triple bottom line sustainability. The course will include an extensive community engaged experiential learning component with a community partner in the city of Rochester which requires periodic travel to the partner’s site for interviews and activities. The course project is intended to lead to ideas that can be continued into social impact design capstone projects for implementation. Lecture 3 (Spring).
FYW: Ethics in Computing
Computing and the Internet are now integral parts of our lives. In this course, we consider and discuss how ethical theories and principles can inform and provide guidance about interactions and uses of computing technologies. Topics include the development interpretation, and application of ethical theory, moral values, personal responsibility, codes of conduct, ethics in the real and virtual worlds, intellectual property, and information security. This is a Writing Intensive (WI) course. Students are provided with guidance and opportunities for improving informal and formal writing skills. Grades received on writing assignments will constitute a significant component of the final course grade. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Placebo, Suggestion, Research and Health
This course provides a foundation for understanding the history and science of placebo effects with a focus on how these effects influence research design, therapeutics and health. A model of placebo effects – comprised of conditioning, expectation, social influence, and paradigm – is developed and applied to both health and common diseases in order to recognize that all health interventions are at least placebos. The question is whether they are anything more. The course structure and process include assigned readings, quizzes, creative class projects, studying advertisements, hearing from pharmaceutical company representatives, and class discussion designed to provoke critical thinking. (Prerequisites: (BIOL-123 and BIOL-125 and BIOL-124 and BIOL-126) or (BIOL-101 and BIOL-102 and BIOL-103 and BIOL-104) or (BIOL-121 and BIOL-122) or (MEDG-101 and MEDG-102 and MEDG-103 and MEDG-104) or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility
This course applies concepts of ethics to business at the macro level and at the micro level. At the macro level the course examines competing business ideologies exploring the ethical concerns of capitalism as well as the role of business in society. At the micro level the course examines the role of the manager in establishing an ethical climate with an emphasis on the development of ethical leadership in business organizations. The following topics are typically discussed: the stakeholder theory of the firm, corporate governance, marketing and advertising ethics, the rights and responsibilities of employees, product safety, ethical reasoning, business's responsibility to the environment, moving from a culture of compliance to a culture of integrity, and ethical leadership. (This class is restricted to undergraduate students with at least 2nd year standing.) Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Systems Administration I
This course is designed to give students an understanding of the role of the system administrator in large organizations. This will be accomplished through a discussion of many of the tasks and tools of system administration. Students will participate in both a lecture section and a separate lab section. The technologies discussed in this class include: operating systems, system security, and service deployment strategies. (Prerequisites: NSSA-241 and (NSSA-220 or CSCI-141 or CSEC-123 or SWEN-123) or equivalent courses.) Lab 2, Lecture 4 (Fall, Spring).
Introduction to Moral Issues
This course examines ethical questions that arise in the course of day-to-day individual and social life. Some consideration will be given to ethical theory and its application to such questions, but emphasis will be on basic moral questions and practical issues. Examples of typical issues to be examined are: What are the grounds for moral obligations like keeping promises or obeying the law? How do we reason about what to do? Examples of typical moral issues that may be introduced are capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion, corporate responsibility, the treatment of animals, and so forth. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Philosophy of Law
An introduction to philosophical analysis centering on the nature, extent and justification of law, the nature of legal thought, and the problems and theories of justice and the relationship between law, ethics and morality. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Philosophy of Peace
An introduction to some of the philosophical dimensions of the search for world peace, including the elements that would constitute a just and lasting peace, nations as moral entities, justice and national self-interest, force and violence, the morality of the use of force, peace-making and peace-keeping groups. Lecture 3 (Spring).
This course critically examines ethical issues that arise in professional life. The course will examine not only the general relationship between ethics and professional life but the particular consequences of ethical considerations within the student's own profession and the professions of others with whom the student must live and work. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Environmental philosophy examines the ethical, metaphysical, and social justice questions surrounding human interactions with nature and the management of natural resources. This course explores the nature and source of environmental values and how environmental goals are achieved through policy decisions. We evaluate and apply philosophical and ethical theory to environmental issues such as endangered species, climate change, wilderness preservation, sustainability, and environmental justice. Lecture 3 (Fall).
This course examines the main currents in contemporary feminist thought. Feminist theory explores the nature and effects of categories of sex and gender upon our ways of living, thinking and doing, while also challenging how gendered assumptions might shape our conceptions of identity and inquiry more generally. Different conceptions of sex and gender will be discussed, and the course will investigate how these concepts affect our lives in both concrete and symbolic ways. Special attention will be paid to how gendered assumptions color our understanding of knowledge production, experiences of embodiment and emotion, public and private activities, and the nature of ethical decision making. Lecture 3 (Fall).
East Asian Philosophy
This course is an introduction to the origin and development of the philosophical traditions of primarily China and Japan through a consideration of selected thinkers, schools, and classic texts of Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Zen. Questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics are emphasized with reference to the nature of reality and the person, social harmony and self-realization, causality, right action, and enlightenment. Comparisons may also be made with Western philosophers, both contemporary and classical. Lecture 3 (Spring).
What we do is connected to what we know. Acting well depends on appropriate evaluation of perception, logic, and evidence, and acting on our beliefs commits us to various ethical outcomes. In addition, understanding how our minds work and how we produce knowledge in teams and institutions can improve the reliability of what we know and can assist us in achieving ethical goals. This course develops advanced critical thinking skills and investigates how knowledge claims and value claims interact in order to shed light on the conditions that make responsible knowing possible. We will study how we produce responsible knowledge individually and collectively: from how we make ethically rational choices in our own lives to how society directs research priorities in science and technology. Topics may include: rational decision-making, cognitive bias, moral psychology, social epistemology, epistemic, and ethical relativism, risk and uncertainty, research integrity, and values in science. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Bioethics and Society
This course introduces students to some of the ethical considerations and problems that arise in the context of medical practice, biological science, health care policy, and related research. Issues that may be covered include: abortion; stem cell research; human cloning; euthanasia; informed consent; human organ procurement; health care allocation and how it is approached in various countries; bioethical concerns arising from human caused climate change and other environmental issues impacting public health concerns around the globe. Students will become familiar with the concepts and principles of bioethics while engaging with case studies and related media.
Part of the philosophy immersion, the ethics immersion, the global justice immersion, the philosophy minor, the ethics minor, and the philosophy major. May also be taken to fulfill the ethical perspective, the global perspective, or as an elective. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Social and Political Philosophy
An examination of some of the main problems of social and political philosophy through an analysis, comparison and critical examination of various views concerning the natures of individuality and society and the relations between them. (Prerequisites: Completion of one (1) course in any of the following disciplines: PHIL, POLS, SOCI, or CRIM.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Philosophy of Action
This course explores the three central philosophical issues of action theory: what is an action, what is an agent, and what is metaphysical freedom. The first part of the course examines the most significant theories of action and the different ways in which they characterize intentional behavior. The second part of this course explores the nature of agency. The third part of this course focuses on the classical problem of free will and its relation to moral responsibility. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in philosophy is required.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Existentialism is distinguished by its emphasis on human existence and the way its meaning is created through actions and choices. Existentialism focuses on the concept of individual freedom in an effort to respond authentically to the possibilities which life presents, emphasizing the importance of certain psychological states (e.g., anxiety, anticipation of death, fear, care, responsibility, and hope) and extreme situations in bringing us to an awareness of our radical freedom. This course will consider such philosophers and writers as Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Berdyaev, Heidegger, Jaspers, Camus, Sartre, Kafka, Beauvoir, Marcel, Buber, Ortega, and Unamuno. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in philosophy is required.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Topics in Philosophy†
A critical examination of issues in some area of philosophy not covered in other philosophy courses. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in philosophy is required.) Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Ethics, Values & Public Policy
This course focuses on the connections and interplay between personal and social values, ethics, and public policy. It explores how values and norms influence public policies and how the resulting expressions of values through public policies impact the implementation and effectiveness of policy choices. It also delves into how different countries make widely different policy choices based on their citizens’ values and social norms. The course also considers how new developments in science and technology influence the interplay between values, ethics, and policy across multiple issues. In addition, this course explores how to formulate values-based explanations of certain public policy preferences. Topics range across the policy issue spectrum. Lecture 3 (Fall).
This course examines various forms of social inequality, including economic, political, health, higher education, race and sex inequality. It uses a variety of sociology's ideas to explain why these kinds of inequality exist, how they persist and what can be done about them. Lecture 3 (Spring).
* Only one 100-level course may be counted as part of the minor.
† PHIL-449 may be used when the topic includes ethical issues.