143 Syllabus

“Now instead of saying “Ethics is the enquiry into what is good” I could have said Ethics is the enquiry into what is valuable, or, into what is really important, or I could have said Ethics is the enquiry into the meaning of life, or into what makes life worth living, or into the right way of living. I believe if you look at all these phrases you will get a rough idea as to what it is that Ethics is concerned with. Now the first thing that strikes one about all these expressions is that each of them is actually used in two very different senses. I will call them the trivial or relative sense on the one hand and the ethical or absolute sense on the other. If for instance I say that this is a good chair this means that the chair serves a certain predetermined purpose and the word good here has only meaning so far as this purpose has been previously fixed upon. In fact the word good in the relative sense simply means coming up to a certain predetermined standard. Thus when we say that this man is a good pianist we mean that he can play pieces of a certain degree of difficulty with a certain degree of dexterity. And similarly if I say that it is important for me not to catch cold I mean that catching a cold produces certain describable disturbances in my life and if I say that this is the right road I mean that it’s the right road relative to a certain goal. Used in this way these expressions don’t present any difficult or deep problems. But this is not how Ethics uses them. Supposing that I could play tennis and one of you saw me playing and said “Well, you play pretty badly” and suppose I answered “I know, I’m playing pretty badly but I don’t want to play any better,” all the other man could say would be “Ah, then that’s all right.” But suppose I had told one of you a preposterous lie and he came up to me and said, “You’re behaving like a beast” and then I were to say “I know I behave badly, but then I don’t want to behave any better,” could he then say “Ah, then that’s all right”? Certainly not; he would say “Well, you ought to want to behave better.” Here you have an absolute judgment of value, whereas the first instance was one of relative judgment.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Lecture on Ethics


Through this course, the student should develop a set of conceptual frameworks for reasoning about issues in ethics, and should also gain a working knowledge of the foundations of ethical thought in the Western Tradition.


Instructor information:

  • Brandon Gillette
  • Office: OCB 261H (and Revocup coffee)
  • Office Hours: by appointment
  • Email: [email protected] (IMPORTANT: There are two persons by the name of Brandon Gillette at JCCC.  When emailing me, make sure it is me! Use the above address!)
  • Note: Email is the best way to contact me. A distant second is the department mailbox (if you can even find it).You may also talk to me or email to set up an appointment.


3 in-class exams

Exam 1:  20% of total

Exam 2: 25% of total

Exam 3: 25% of total

Final exam: (30% of total grade)


Course information, including the assignment schedule, is available at www.bgillette.com


Grading Scale:

The numerical scores corresponding with the letter grades will be as follows. When final scores are calculated, I will round to the nearest whole number.

  • 100-90 A
  • 89-80 B
  • 79-70 C
  • 69-60 D
  • 59-0 F


I will keep track of attendance for my records. While there is not a grade specifically assigned to attendance, I will not accept exams, papers, or assignments outside of class (see Lateness/Make-Up policy below). Poor exam grades are likely if you do not attend regularly. I do realize that, on occasion, some things are more important than class. I do not need to know what these things are in your individual cases unless some arrangements between us are necessary.

Make-up Policy:

Make-up exams will be permitted in extreme circumstances at the discretion of the instructor, and may be offered for reduced credit. The earlier I am notified about an absence due to extreme circumstances on an exam day, the more likely it is that a make-up exam will be allowed.  In the event that you know you will miss an exam day, you may be permitted to take an exam early, provided I am notified well in advance.

Course Text:

JCCC publication “Ethics as Philosophy”

“Conduct and Character” ed. Mark Timmons

Academic Honesty:

I will abide very strictly to the College’s policies on academic honesty. Violations of academic honesty policies can result in loss of credit for exams or assignments, and in some circumstances can result in loss of credit for the course.