PHI 102: Ethical Foundations of the Just

"Pigs on The Wing (Part One)"
Pink Floyd

PHI 102 is a First Year Seminar for incoming John Jay students, and in it the relationship between ethics and politics is explored accross an extremely diverse set of readings. From Rand to Buber, from Plato to Goldman, from Pateman to Dussel, this course covers: (1) theoretical ethics, (2) ideal political philosophy, and (3) non-ideal political philosophy, which is the political philosophy of the exploited, oppressed, and too-often deumanized.

This is the official course description: "Ethics is the discipline that asks the questions: What is the right thing to do, and how do we know it is right? The course looks at some of the most influential theories of rightness and goodness, and then applies these theories to questions of relevance to the creation and maintenance of a modern, just society, such as: How do we educate people to be good?; is goodness something all humans hold in common, or is it merely the name we give to whatever our individual cultures judge to be good?; and how do our individual differences, such as race, sex, gender, wealth, and time and place of birth, affect our ethical interactions?"

These are the materials that we usually cover:


Divine Command Theory.  Selections from Euthyphro by Plato; PDF

Ethical Egoism.  “The Objectivist Ethics” by Ayn Rand; PDF

Virtue Ethics.  Selections from Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle; PDF

Deontology.  Selections from the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals by
Immanuel Kant;

Utilitarianism.  Selections from Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill; PDF

Existentialism.  Selections from The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir; PDF

Alterity Ethics.  Selections from I and Thou by Martin Buber; PDF

Care Ethics. “Why Care about Caring?” by Nel Noddings; PDF


Enlightened Aristocracy.  Selections from the Republic by Plato; PDF

The Virtuous Polity.  Selections from Politics by Aristotle; PDF

The Social Contract.  Selections from Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes; PDF

Liberal Democracy.  Selections from Two Treatise of Government by John Locke; PDF

Communism.  Selections from The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels; PDF

Anarchism.  “Anarchism: What It Really Stands For” by Emma Goldman; PDF

Libertarianism.  Selections from Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick; PDF

African Communitarianism.  “Ubuntu and Its Socio-moral Significance” by Mluleki Munyaka and Mokgethi Motlhabi; PDF


Non-Ideal Theory.  “'Ideal Theory' as Ideology” by Charles W. Mills; PDF

Feminism I.  “Oppression” by Marilyn Frye; PDF

Feminism II.  “Contracting In” by Carole Pateman; PDF

Critical Race Theory I.  “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” by W.E.B. Du Bois; PDF

Critical Race Theory II.  “The Fact of Blackness” by Frantz Fanon; PDF

Liberation Theory I.  Selections from Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire; PDF

Liberation Theory II.  “Liberation Ethics: Fundamental Hypotheses” by Enrique Dussel; PDF

Film: District 9

© Douglas Ficek