Critical and Historical Development of Public Ethics – GOVT 323

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 07/28/2020

Course Description

This course is an introduction to ethical theory to compliment public policy studies. It approaches the subject by way of historical exploration of moral philosophy, integrating areas of Western philosophy of religion, social and political philosophy as necessary. It surveys Western ethical thought by reading selected figures representative of Western ethical traditions. The selected traditions will highlight theoretical developments critical to the ethical dimension of public policy, including virtue theory, utilitarianism, deontological theory, natural law, as well as contemporary theories. Students will interact with the primary writings from representative ethical thinkers. They will explore the differing conceptions of morality with respect to their scope, purpose, and content. In addition, the course will trace the interactions of Western ethical thought with Christian theistic ethics. (Formerly ETHC 323)




Operating from a sound, biblical foundation for ethics includes understanding the historical context of many of the competing ethical theories that have arisen and been developed by various thinkers, particularly as part of Western civilization.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Develop a critical appreciation for the conceptual connections in moral philosophy between metaphysics, natural theology (i.e. philosophy of religion), and morality.
  2. Explain the representative schools of ethical thought germane to public policy, including virtue theory, consequentialism, and deontological theory, as they develop in historical context.
  3. Analyze how the traditional moral conscience and its substantive ideas developed in the West.
  4. Cultivate a critical ability to evaluate the differences between secular and religious morality.
  5. Create a conceptual “toolbox” of ideas, sources, methods, and principles to use in analyzing ethical issues and to defend the involvement of moral beliefs in culturally sensitive public policy arguments.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Discussion Board Forums (5)

Discussion boards are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student is required to provide a thread in response to the provided prompt for each forum. Each thread must be 400–500 words, include at least 5 references, and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 2 classmates’ threads. Each reply must be 200–250 words and must include at least 1 reference to the course readings and at least 1 Scripture reference.

Ethical Analysis Papers (3)

The student will write 3 research-based essays in current Turabian format that focus on the topics outlined within the course. Essays 1 and 2 will each be 4 pages and include at least 1 primary and scholarly source, and 3 biblical references. Essay 3 will be 7–10 pages and will trace and analyze the question “Why be moral?” as discussed by the student’s choice of 4 philosophers found in the textbook Why Be Good? Essay 3 will include 8 scholarly and primary source references, and at least 4 biblical references.