Course Exam—PHIL 333 (Professional Ethics)

According to the syllabus, PHIL 333 (Professional Ethics) is a three-credit, third year philosophy course that “highlights ethical issues pertaining to journalists, engineers, medical doctors, accounting, finance specialists, and lawyers.” PHIL 333 is considered a humanities course that has no prerequisites and can be challenged for credit.

Professional Ethics is comprised of nine units and four assignments.  This course does not have a midterm or a final exam.  The nine units discussed within this course cover introductory philosophy concepts, such as morality (distinguishing between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour), ethics in general (moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour), and ethics pertaining to engineering, medicine, journalism, law, accounting, and finance.  Although this course does not have a final exam the assignments are relatively long, though not difficult.  The first assignment, worth fifteen percent, requires students to write a one-thousand-word essay surrounding a case within the textbook.  The second assignment, twenty percent of the final mark, requires students to write a twelve-hundred-word explanatory summary.  The third assignment, worth thirty percent, requires students to write an eighteen-hundred-word ethical analysis of a case.  Lastly, assignment four, which makes up the last thirty five percent, requires students to write a two-thousand-word critical essay.

Jill Gatfield, a tutor for PHIL 335 (Biomedical Ethics), PHIL 337 (Business Ethics), and PHIL 333 has been with Athabasca University for fourteen years.  She studied at McMaster University, the University of Windsor, Dalhousie University, and the University of Calgary.  At first, she was studying science; however, in her second year she made the move towards philosophy.  She states, “as a teaching assistant or as a lecturer, I taught at seven other universities and colleges, before choosing Athabasca University, and distance education as the right fit for me.  My specialization is Ethics, and Metaphysics and Philosophy of Action are passions of mine too.”

Gatfield notes that students should be on the look out for a revised version of PHIL 333 that will contain a final exam, she states “the course is undergoing a revision, at this time, and the requirements will change, while a final exam will be incorporated.  When the revised version will become active is not yet determined, but this will probably be at least several months from now.”

She continues, “In Professional Ethics, students study, first, some general concepts and theories that are central to philosophical ethics of all kinds and, second, various moral problems that relate, more specifically, to five professions.  Not all lines of work that could be considered professions are covered, but there is some freedom for students to choose to write about a profession not explicitly covered by the course, in one or more of their assignments, although they should still draw upon some of the course materials while doing so.  The course, overall, aims (a) to teach students about particular moral issues that are encountered by professionals of various kinds and (b) to help students develop analytical skills, relating to morality, so that they can use their own good moral sense in a more disciplined way.”

Moreover, she states “PHIL 333 has no prerequisites, but it is a third-year course, which means that students should at least have some reasonably well-developed writing skills.  It consists of nine substantive units and includes some self-assessment activities and study question forums that help students test their understanding of the material as they proceed.  Currently, there are four written assignments, and no final exam.  Two of these assignments require students to provide their own, sustained moral analyses of a professional ethics issue of their choice, and one is a case study analysis, while the remaining assignment is not focused on a particular case but is more general.”

Gatfield further explains “every task and endeavour we take on, in this life, requires focus and dedication, and being both interested and determined to succeed helps us remain dedicated.  Each student has his or her own way of organizing and progressing.  Practically speaking, however, students should have interest to begin with (rather than just try to satisfy this course strictly as an academic requirement), and if interested students find their dedication wanes or gets side-tracked, (which is not uncommon, given all that students have going on in their lives), they should contact their tutor for advice and encouragement, which can help.

Asked who the course is meant for, she notes that “any student who is interested in moral questions and problems that professionals tend to encounter, and who is interested in further developing skills that can be used to analyze these problems and, also, moral problems more generally.  There is a comparatively large amount of philosophical reading and writing in this course, for which students should be prepared.  There are several Ethics courses offered at AU, and it may be that another of these more clearly aligns with a particular student’s interests, so students should investigate which is best for them.”

Lastly, she sates, “the most significant things students can take away from this course are more refined abilities to (i) understand the moral arguments that others offer and (ii) provide moral arguments of their own.  Another main beneficial outcome is a more learned and comprehensive understanding of the kinds of moral problems that are faced by those who occupy professional positions in our society, and how these may be resolved.”

Whether this course is a degree requirement of yours or a general interest, PHIL 333 will have students gaining a better understanding of moral arguments and how to apply them.  If you are wanting to take this course because there is no final exam, it is recommended that you register soon before the revised version becomes implemented later this year.