Skip To Content Skip To Menu Skip To Footer

Ethics Minor

Why Study Ethics at Dickinson?

Many of us can say who and what we care about, but we stumble when asked why we care and how we should act because we care. Without studying ethics, we may passively accept ideas about what counts as morally good or what constitutes moral failure without engaging in critical thinking. So, we may spend our lives thinking some action or idea is "good" or "evil" without ever understanding why. Studying ethics will offer you opportunities to reflect on your values and think for yourselves with others. 

The minor complements majors across the curriculum; we support students as they learn how to identify and address moral problems in our local and global communities. The minor will offer you opportunities to engage with students across disciplines as you work together to ask questions and make arguments about what matters and why.

The minor will provide you with a scaffolded curriculum (100, 200, and 300 level courses) to write about in cover letters or applications for internships, scholarships, and advanced degrees. The minor will prepare you to go beyond the basics; you will have a strong background in ethics to refer to in applications and interviews.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will become familiar with ethical theories in the history of philosophy and contemporary debates in ethics.
  • Students will recognize how ethical theories inform ethical practices and how ethical practices inform ethical theories. 
  • Students will gain critical thinking, active listening, careful reading, argumentative writing, and public speaking skills.
  • Students will exercise ethical reasoning skills and learn how to defend their views with strong evidence while remaining open to the possibility that strong counterarguments or critical questions may change their minds.
  • Students will gain experience working with case studies, thought experiments, and argumentative essays in ethics.


To successfully earn a minor in ethics, a student must complete six courses:

  1. PHIL 102: Introduction to Ethics
  2. PHIL 104: Practical Ethics
  3. Three ethics electives other than PHIL 102 and PHIL 104. Students should have taken at least PHIL 102 or 104 before taking a 200-level course in the Department of Philosophy.
  4. A 300-level course with the "Ethics Elective" attribute in the Department of Philosophy. Students should have taken three prior courses in philosophy, at least two at the 200-level before enrolling in the 300-level course. (Please note that NOT all 300-level courses in the Department of Philosophy satisfy this requirement. The course must have the "Ethics Elective" attribute attached.) 
  5. Courses taken during study abroad or offered as transfer credit may count toward these requirements if deemed suitable by Professor Sias or Professor McKiernan. (These courses need not focus on ethics in Western traditions.)  
  6. Students who are philosophy majors may only count two courses both for the major and the minor.

Suggested Four-Year Course Plan

First Year: PHIL 102 or PHIL 104
Sophomore Year: PHIL 102 or PHIL 104, one additional ethics elective (other than PHIL 102 or PHIL 104)
Junior Year: Two ethics electives
Senior Year: One 300-level course with the "Ethics Elective" attribute in the Department of Philosophy. (Please note that NOT all 300-level courses in the Department of Philosophy satisfy this requirement. The course must have the "Ethics Elective" attribute attached.)

Courses That Count as Electives for the Ethics Minor

  • PHIL 102: Introduction to Ethics 
  • PHIL 104: Practical Ethics
  • PHIL 180: Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 205: Daoism
  • PHIL 210: Philosophy of Feminism 
  • PHIL 220: Biomedical Ethics
  • PHIL 253: Philosophy of Punishment 
  • PHIL 257: Moral Psychology
  • PHIL 261: Modern Moral Philosophy 
  • PHIL 261: Evil
  • PHIL 261: Philosophy of Mental Illness
  • PHIL 261: Philosophy of Race & Gender 
  • PHIL 261: Feminist Epistemology
  • PHIL 261: Racism
  • PHIL 261: Sex
  • PHIL 261: Capital Punishment
  • PHIL 261: War & Justice
  • PHIL 285: Justice in World Politics
  • PHIL 302: Ethical Theory
  • PHIL 391: Identity Ethics & Multiculturalism
  • RELG 215: Jewish Environmental Ethics
  • RELG 303: Buddhist Ethics
  • POSC 234: Gender & Justice
  • POSC 258: Human Rights
  • POSC 271/INST 271: Ethics & International Security
  • INBM 300: Applied Business Ethics

How to Declare the Minor

Complete this Intention to Complete a Minor form located on the Office of the Registrar’s webpage and bring the form to either Professor Sias or Professor McKiernan for their approval.