The Ethics Unit

Without getting too far ahead of myself, I will remind you of some end-of-unit responsibilities so you can earn the best grade possible.

  1. This will be the last unit with substantial work involved.  Don’t blow it off.
  2. There will be a unit test on May 24th.
  3. Your Ethics Journal with all readings and daily assignments will be due by the end of class on the day you take the unit test.
  4. You will have homework during the IB testing window – you will need to view Minority Report.  It is a film that lasts 145 minutes.

REGARDLESS OF YOUR ATTENDANCE, you will need to submit a journal on Tuesday, May 24th if you wish your Journal to be considered on-time.

The most significant submissions remaining are your Ethics Journal, the Ethics test (both on May 24 in class), and your Art Project Presentation (at school on June 3rd) as well as the reflection writing (due on the day of your final – June 7th (5th period) or June 8th (3rd/4th)).  I have moved the Ethics test to Tuesday to allow additional time for you to finish your packet and to accommodate those who may be absent Monday.  IF you are not in attendance Tuesday (but have an excused absence), the makeup for the Ethics test is at 8:45 am on Wednesday morning May 25th in the IB History room.  

Your Ethics Journal is significant for several reasons:

  • You will need to submit a quality Ethics Journal for the final journal of the year.  There will be only daily assignments and the Art Project after the submission of the Ethics Journal.
  • You will need to review and understand this material for the Final Exam.  The Final Exam will cover this material and ask you to make comparisons between these thinkers, the assigned readings, the film Minority Report, and material you’ve learned throughout the year.  It is likely that your final exam asks you to read excerpts from these texts and then:
    • identify the author
    • specify the main point
    • recognize the philosophy
    • compare this ideology to others you’ve learned

A sample author we will consider is John Stuart Mill.  Read and consider a brief excerpt from John Stuart Mill’s text titled “Utilitarianism”.  When you’ve printed the texts for your ethics journal, be sure to do all the things good critical thinkers do when they analyze and react to a text:

  • identify important passages
  • paraphrase relevant/main points
  • react in the margin
  • identify the author’s assumptions
  • consider and address the implications of the argument

Master List of Ethics Authors:  [there were choices made when you were testing.  Assignments you are NOT required to do have strike through.  These will be considered extra credit.  Required work for the final Ethics Journal you need to do on your own is in green.  All Required work has the word Required after it.

  1.  4/18 David Brooks – What is inspirationRequired.
  2. 4/20 Mill – Utilitarianism Required.
  3. 4/21  Bentham – Hedonistic Calculus and related questions Required.
  4. 4/25  Kant – Categorical Imperative Required.
  5. Aristotle – Virtue Theory Required.
  6. 4/29 Thoreau – Civil Disobedience Required.
  7. Nietzsche – Will to Power Part Nine: 257  258  259  260  261
  8. Sartre – Existentialist Ethics Read pages 1-7 of this text
  9. Exodus – Divine Command Theory Required.
  10. Leopold – Environmental Ethics Required.
  11. The ToK Course Companion textbook- pages 262-265 one two three four Required.
  12. 4/28 Machiavelli – The Prince Required.
  13. Your own selection (and written justification) Required.
  14. Your own selection (and written justification) Required.

What sorts of applications will Mr. Braman encourage you to think about on the test? What about human genomes?  Or the Death Penalty?  Or an apology for the bombing at Hiroshima?  How would Robert McNamara respond regarding Hiroshima?

IF additional sources are added to this list, they will also be provided as links.

In addition to the above critical readings, please add written responses to the following into the Ethics Journal.

1. What makes us human?  [From class 4/18] Is it our ability to reason?  To feel emotions?  To care about others? To do something selfless?

2. How do we know right from wrong?  [From class 4/19, 4/20] What is the source of your certainty?  Is it a person?  Your self?  A process?  A text?  What are the challenges to knowing what is morally right in this manner?

2a.  How would Bentham consider right and wrong?  How do we figure it out? [in class 4/21]

3. Is it ever right for a few to suffer for the greater good?  [in-class (4th and 5th periods) 4/27] What if we had to make a few suffer?  Would it be right to do so if the society benefited?

4. Is cheating ever right?  (from in-class 4/21) Please justify your answer.  And then interview/discuss the subtleties of your viewpoint with a willing adversary (if you missed class, record snippets of that conversation).  What are the essential questions that must be asked?  List them.

5. Do the ends (ever) justify the means?  (Required) Explain your rationale.  Quality responses will consider both the premise of Minority Report and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

6. [in-class 4/29]  When, if ever, is it acceptable to break a law?  Critically read Civil Disobedience.

[yet-to-be-assigned] When finished, write your answer to the question: How would Thoreau give advice to a modern historical figure? Use quotes and examples in your lengthy paragraph expository response.

7.  [yet-to-be-assigned] In an expository essay format (not a full-blown essay)

How should an action be judged?

  • By the purity of the intent of the actor?
  • By some universal standard?
  • By comparison to others?
  • By the consequences of their actions?


  1. State your answer to the question above with a strong, precise thesis statement
  2. Consider the four possible elements: intent, universal standard, cultural comparison, consequence.
  3. Identify a predicament/decision from a fictional character from one of the films we viewed.
    1. Clarify a/the central ethical knowledge issue inherent in the predicament
  4. Explain whether or not the character made the appropriate choice [was it morally right?] according to the ethical viewpoints that are relevant to the decision
  5. Support your argument/analysis by including an additional example from your personal experience in order to clarify how the philosophy would be applied in this situation


When finished, research, identify, print out and critically read additional documents for the Ethics Journal. AT LEAST TWO additional unique expert sources of your choosing must be included in your ethics journal.  In a brief paragraph, justify their inclusion as research into your own personal philosophy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s