According to the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, “Ethics is the study of human conduct, focusing particularly on attitudes and actions that are considered to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’” In other words, a study of ethics deals with moral development and how that particular development influences how we answer the questions that innundate us as human beings on a daily basis. These questions range from the profound to the practical, such as: “Which partner should I be with? What kind of job is good for me? Why am I here?” Why does our economic system benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor?”
By the time a student is finished with a college course in ethics, the following should have been covered thoroughly; an overview of important facts, concepts, and theories pertaining to ethics; the different types of ethics that exist and how they guide our behavior and decision-making; effective ways to critically evaluate ethical issues and problems; and the ability to ask the right questions, even when the answers are not available to us.
A college course in ethics will normally cover the following topics:
- Foundations of Ethics and Moral Development
- Critical Thinking in Ethics
- Personal Ethics
- Social Ethics
- Sexual Ethics
- Consequential Ethics
- Situation/Contextual Ethics
- Norms for Ethics
- Religious and Biblical Ethics
A good course in ethics should leave students with an ability to think critically and to recognize, accept, and appreciate the various ways in which people express their beliefs and opinions. In addition, it should give students an awareness of the role ethics plays in every area of human life, and the need to build healthy and fulfilling relationships.
Students interested in ethics should thoroughly explore the websites of The Society for Ethics, The American Philosophical Association, and the Association for Informal Logic & Critical Thinking. An additional place to visit would be the website of the American Academy of Religion (Ethics section).
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