PHL 225: Ethics
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MARYGROVE COLLEGE

WINTER 2010

Instructor:

Steven W. Patterson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies Dept., Marygrove College

Contact Information

Office Phone: 313-927-1539
Departmental Phone: 313-927-1556
e-mail: spatterson_@_marygrove.edu Note: The best way to reach me is via e-mail. Remove the underscores before and after the '@' or just use this Contact form.
Office:346 Madame Cadillac Hall
Open Office Hours:Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:30 PM If you cannot make it to open office hours, e-mail me to schedule an appointment.


Course Information

Meeting Times: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30-11:45 AM, room LA 242
Credit Hours: 3, Satisfies General Education Requirements
Prerequisites: LS 105 and ENG 107 (or equivalent)

Course Objectives

The principal aim of this course is to afford the student introductory exposure to classic and contemporary philosophical positions and thinkers in moral philosophy. Together as colleagues we will investigate diverse accounts of moral value and its sources, and the importance of clear and careful moral thinking to a refined sense of justice. A student who successfully completes the course requirements will thus achieve broad familiarity with a wide range of concepts and theoretical frameworks for understanding and discussing moral issues.
Possession of a rich conceptual framework for thinking about moral issues is essential for for understanding, articulating, reflecting on, and critically appraising one’s own moral values. It is also essential for the larger task of understanding, reflecting, and critically appraising the values of one’s social and political context. Leadership especially requires genuine moral clarity, and an ability to engage with the moral values of others in a thoughtful and respectful way. Thus those who would be leaders in any context must be able to demonstrate clear moral thinking and to communicate their thinking to others in a context of diverse moral understandings and positions. Hence the second objective of this course is the cultivation a more refined understanding of moral value in general, both for purposes of self-refection and for purposes of social engagement.

Also integral to leadership is the ability to read, write, and think critically and carefully about difficult problems that resist easy solution. Hence the third objective of this course is the enhancement of students’ critical thinking abilities through the exercise of the analytical and imaginative skills that form the core of the philosophical method. We will devote substantial class time to honing these skills, and we will apply them in our discussions and especially to our writing assignments throughout the term. Because they are so widely applicable to concrete problems, development of the sort of critical thinking skills that make up the philosophical method is an essential part of general education, and one of the chief benefits of a course of this nature.

Finally, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements, in doing so, will have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Finally, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements will, in doing so, have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Core Questions

  1. What is the nature of our moral obligations? (Think about the wide range of possible answers here: e.g. do moral obligations emerge from our nature as human beings? Are they requirements of reason? Are they built-in features of the world that we somehow percieve? Are they wholly artificial creations of society? etc.)

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  1. What reasons, if any, do we have to be skeptical about mainstream moral traditions? If skepticism is warranted, can the challenge me met? If so, how?

Student Responsibilities

Assignments

Tests

We will have three in-class tests. The tests will cover material from readings as well as lectures. The lowest test score will be dropped. Test dates are given in the Course Plan at the end of this syllabus. More information will be given a week or so before the first test. The purpose of the tests is to gauge student success at becoming familiar with the ideas, concepts and approaches that comprise the content of our study, as well as student’s abilities to read, write, and think critically and carefully.

Review Questions

As noted in the course plan students will be responsible for completing and turning in review questions pertaining to the readings. The purpose of all of the questions is to help students build the intellectual discipline needed for successful lifelong learning. Study questions have the additional purposes of enabling students to engage the readings more thoroughly, preparing students for productive class discussions, and of helping students to prepare for quizzes and tests. Two sets of questions may be missed without penalty. Review questions will be graded on an "all or nothing" system, according to the following guidelines:

  1. A serious attempt must be made to answer all of the questions. Answers like "I don't know", "I couldn't find it", or just leaving a blank space will result in no credit being given for the assignment.
  2. All questions must be answered in complete sentences of standard English, not with bullet points or notes.
  3. All questions must be answered "in your own words"—all this means is that you should not simply copy passages of text down as your answers, but make some attempt to synthesize and explain the material yourself.
  4. All questions must be typed and printed in a reasonable font size, and multiple sheets must be stapled together. Do not use a cover sheet, folder, etc.
  5. You may work together outside of class on the review questions but copying is cheating. Any case of identical answers to the questions will result in the denial of credit to all parties.
  6. Remember that this is for your benefit. You will be using these questions to study for your quizzes. Put enough effort into them to make them useful in that regard.

Attendance and Participation

Philosophy, by its nature, is a highly discursive subject that requires a great deal of intellectual discipline and individual engagement of students both with the instructor and with each other. Because a community of thinkers is necessary to the enterprise, informed, consistent participation is the single most important component of our class work. Merely coming to class is not enough. The Participation component of the grade is based on two factors: 1) timely attendance to every class meeting, and 2) competent preparation and participation.

Timely Attendance:

Quality participation is impossible if one is absent or habitually late. So regular and timely attendance is expected and attendance will be taken at every class meeting (excepting the first week) via a sign-in sheet that will be circulated by the instructor at the beginning of class. Students in this class shall be allowed two (2) unexcused absences. Unexcused absences exceeding two and excessive lateness in attendance to class shall warrant deductions from the day’s participation grade. Excessive lateness shall be defined for our purposes as arriving at class fifteen minutes or more after class has begun. Excessive lateness and any absences will be excused upon proof of sufficiently extenuating circumstances to the satisfaction of the instructor.

Preparation and Participation:

Quality participation requires that you come to class prepared, and this entails doing the study questions provided for each reading on Blackboard. Although preparation is required, complete understanding is not a prerequisite for participation.

Some examples of how participation credit can be earned:
  • Thoughtful questions about the material
  • Thoughtful comments about the material
  • Philosophically relevant questions or comments, even if they’re not about the material
  • Respectful discussion with one’s colleagues at appropriate times
Some examples of how participation credit can be lost:
  • Being unprepared when called upon
  • Habitual/ Recurring Lateness
  • Inappropriate questions and comments
  • Any behavior that is disrespectful or that distracts from the learning of others.
  • Sleeping
  • Frequently departing from and returning to the classroom while class is in session
  • Text-messaging, web-surfing or otherwise manipulating small electronic devices while class is in session
  • Eating
  • Studying materials for other classes
  • Side discussions

The basic rule is: Good participation moves class discussion forward; poor participation hinders it.

The participation component of the course is intended to measure students’ preparedness, ability to deploy critical thinking skills discursively, and willingness and ability to function collegially with one another and with the instructor for the common purpose of meeting the course objectives.

Final Grade Distribution

Tests 60%
Review Questions 20%
Attendance and Participation 20%
Total 100%

Course Policies

Conduct Policy

It is expected that all persons in this class will comport themselves with the dignity and respect due to themselves and to their colleagues. This includes coming to class on time, refraining from having side-discussions while lecture is in progress, refraining from studying materials for other classes during lecture, refraining from bringing any food to class, refraining from texting during class, and leaving at home or turning off any and all items that make sudden, disruptive noises, especially cell phones. Please don’t bring children to class unless it is absolutely unavoidable, and if you must do so please notify me in advance as early as possible. Failure to observe these guidelines may result in deductions from the Participation grade.

Late and Make-up Work Policy

Students are accountable for turning in all assigned work on time. As in the "real world" late work is not accepted, ever, for any reason. Please don't ask. The answer is "no". You will be given sufficient time for the completion of all work assigned to you in this class. The opportunity to miss two sets of study questions and two days of class without penalty should compensate for the usual sort of absences. I will not even consider scheduling or accepting make-up assignments unless:

  1. more than two have been missed and
  2. highly unusual, severe, and sufficiently verifiable circumstances have been demonstrated to my satisfaction.

If you know, or suspect that you will be absent on the day that an assignment is due, please notify the instructor as far in advance as possible so that satisfactory alternative arrangements can be made. You cannot expect accommodation on short notice (i.e. phone messages left at 4 AM the morning of class).

Do not e-mail, FAX, or by any other means convey late or early assignments to the instructor without a prior arrangement to do so. Assignments received in such ways will be disregarded.

If you miss class for any reason, it is your responsibility to get the notes from a classmate and familiarize yourself with whatever material you may have missed. I do not give out my notes.

I highly recommend making at least one contact in class who can provide you with notes and assignments in the event that you miss class. In the interest of fairness to all, no make-up work of any

Withdrawal Policy

All withdrawal slips will be signed with no questions asked. Incompletes (grades of “I”) will not be given unless: 1) highly unusual and severe circumstances prevent a student from completing the work necessary to complete the class, 2) enough work has been done, in the instructor’s judgment, to leave only a minimal amount of work remaining for the student to complete, and 3) the student expressly requests a such a grade at least one week before the day scheduled by the College for the final exam.

Plagiarism and Cheating Policy

Plagiarism or cheating on any assignment will not be tolerated for any reason. Should you do either you will receive an “E” for the assignment on the first occasion, and the student’s adviser and the Dean will be informed in accord with Marygrove’s academic standards policy. Repeated offenses will merit stronger disciplinary measures, which the instructor will pursue. Students are encouraged to consult the Academic Honesty policy in the Undergraduate Catalog for more detailed information.


Required Texts

For this class the required texts are:

  1. Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, eds. Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie (Oxford University Press) Fourth Edition, 2009. ISBN: 0-19-517840-8.

Students are responsible for timely acquisition of all course texts. Failure to acquire the texts will
adversely affect student preparedness and performance.

Please note:

  • if you choose to order your books online, order them by ISBN to be sure that you get the precise edition(s) we will be using.
  • While no other books are required, it is strongly recommended that you obtain or secure access to a collegiate level dictionary and thesaurus (I recommend the handy combination of both in the Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus, American Edition, ISBN 0-19-513097-9), and a style manual for written English such as the classic Elements of Style by Strunk and White (Fourth Edition, Allyn & Bacon, ISBN 0-205-30902) Regular access to and use of such references will be assumed.
  • The same books are used in PHL 201: The Western Philosophical Heritage 1: From Antiquity to the Early Modern Period.
  • If you cannot afford a book right away, or if you happen to lose your book, you may use the links provided in the course schedule at the end of the syllabus to complete the assignments until you obtain the book. Please bear in mind, however, that despite the essential similarity of the text, the translations and organization of many of the online readings are different, and it will likely be harder to complete the assignments when using them rather than the textbooks.

Instructor Responsibilities

Grading

Grading is the instructor's responsibility. Students have the right to grades given solely on the merit of the points achieved and weighted as described under the Assignments section of this syllabus. Accordingly, no curves, preset distributions, or other forms of manipulation will be used. All grades will be based solely on the quality of work as reflected in the points achieved. Remember that no one grade says anything about one’s overall intelligence, personal work ethic or personality. A grade (in this class at least) merely reflects performance on the assignments. Concentrate on developing your understanding of the material and the grades will follow.

Grading Scale

The grading scale below will be used to determine all letter grades in this class, including the final grade. It is completely and without exception a non-negotiable item.

A 100% - 94.5% A- 94.4% - 88.9% B+ 88.8% - 85.2%
B 85.1% - 81.5% B- 81.4% - 77.8% C+ 77.7% - 74.1%
C 74.0% - 70.4% C- 70.3% - 66.7% D+ 66.6% - 63.0%
D 62.9% - 59.3% D- 59.2% - 55.6% E 55.5% - 0%

Syllabus Revisions

The instructor bears the sole responsibility to revise any part of this syllabus should it become necessary to do so. Any such revision that takes place will be announced in class with as much advance notice as the circumstances permit. It is the student’s responsibility to remain abreast of any such changes and to alter his or her own workload accordingly. In the absence of any notification to the contrary, students should follow the course plan and reading schedule as given below, or the most recent set of revisions (if any have been made). The silence of this syllabus on any matter that may arise pertaining to this class shall not be construed to indicate that the matter is up for debate. The instructor’s interpretation of this syllabus shall be final and binding.


Communication

Students are welcome to stop by the instructor’s office anytime. Appointments are only necessary for meetings requested at times other than office hours. The most effective way to reach the instructor outside of office hours is by e-mail. Second best is by office phone. The instructor will make every effort to answer reasonable requests for help with class related matters so long as such requests are respectful. Students should be aware that e-mails sent before 9 AM, after 9 PM, or anytime on Sunday will generally not be answered right away. The same goes for phone calls placed during times other than office hours.


Disability Policy

The Instructor will, by arrangement with the student and Disability Support Services (DSS), offer reasonable accomodation for all properly documented, College-recognized disabilities. DSS offers a variety of services and accommodations to students with disabilities based on appropriate documentation, nature of disability, and academic need. In order to initiate services, students should meet with the Coordinator of DSS at the start of the semester to discuss reasonable accommodations. If a student does not request accommodations or provide documentation to DSS, the faculty member is under no obligation to provide academic accommodations. You may contact the Coordinator of DSS at 313-927-1427 or through e-mail at vkillebrew_@_marygrove.edu


Course Plan

Week 1: Course Introduction

Mon. 1/11

Required Reading: Read this website thoroughly.

Weds. 1/13

Required Reading: none
Required Work: Write a short (250-500 words) answer to both Core Questions:

1. What is the nature of our moral obligations? (Think about the wide range of possible answers here: e.g. do moral obligations emerge from our nature as human beings? Are they requirements of reason? Are they built-in features of the world that we somehow percieve? Are they wholly artificial creations of society? etc.)
2. What reasons, if any, do we have to be skeptical about mainstream moral traditions? If skepticism is warranted, can the challenge me met? If so, how?

Type or print out your answer on a single sheet of white paper. Handwriting will not be accepted. Write in complete, well-formed sentences of English. Use a readable font of reasonable size, and double-space your lines. Answers will be read and discussed in class. Give your own opinion. Do not use any source other than your own thinking to answer the question.

  • You should also visit the TPM website and play the game Morality Play prior to attendance. Be ready to discuss your results in class.

Week 2:

Mon. 1/18

No class meeting: Martin Luther King Holiday

Weds. 1/20

Required Reading: The Basics of Philosophical Argumentation
Required Work: visit the TPM website and take the Philosophical Health Check prior to attendance. Be ready to discuss your results in class.


PART I: Meta-ethical Considerations: Setting the Ground

Week 3:

Mon. 1/25

Required Reading: Read Feinberg, “Psychological Egoism”
Required Work: Review Questions for Feinberg

Weds. 1/27

Required Reading: Read Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”
Required Work: Review Questions for Rachels


PARt II: Moral Sources

Week 4

Mon. 2/1

Required Reading: Read Plato, Republic, Book I
Required Work: Review Questions on the Republic, Book I

Weds. 2/3

Required Reading: Read Plato, Republic, Book II
Required Work: Review Questions on the Republic, Book II


Week 5

Mon. 2/8

Required Reading: None
Required Work: There will be an in-class writing workshop to help students prepare for the first test.

Weds. 2/10

The First Test will be held in class on this day.


Week 6

Mon. 2/15

Required Reading: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, all of Book I
Required Work: Review Questions on the NE, Book I

Weds. 2/17

Required Reading: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, all of Book II
Required Work: Review Questions on the NE, Book II
Handout: Aristotle's Moral Philosophy


Week 7

Mon. 2/22

Required Reading: Read Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, all sections
Required Work: Review Questions on the Summa Contra Gentiles

Weds. 2/24

Required Reading: Read Butler, from Fifteen Sermons
Required Work: Review Questions on Fifteen Sermons


Week 8

Mon. 3/1

Required Reading: Read Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Stop at section V)
Required Work: Review Questions on the ECPM, set 1

Weds. 3/3

Required Reading: Read Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Section V to the end)
Required Work: Review Questions on the ECPM, set 2


Week 9

Mon. 3/8 & Weds. 3/10

Spring Break: No class meetings


Week 10

Mon. 3/15

Required Reading: Read Mill, Utilitarianism (Stop at Chapter 4)
Required Work: Review Questions on Utilitarianism, set 1

Weds. 3/17

Required Reading: Read Mill, Utilitarianism (Chapter 4-end)
Required Work: Review Questions on Utilitarianism, set 2
Handout: The Moral Philosophy of Utilitarianism


Week 11

Mon. 3/22

The Second Test will be held in class on this day

Weds. 3/24

Required Reading: Read Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Preface and Section I
Required Work: Review Questions on the Groundwork, set 1


Week 12

Mon. 3/29

Required Reading: Read Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Section II
Required Work: Review Questions on the Groundwork, set 2
Handout: Kant's Moral Philosophy

Weds. 3/31

Required Reading: Read Nietzsche, from Geneaology of Morals
Required Work: Review Questions on GM, set 1


PART III: Departures and New Directions

Week 13

Mon. 4/5

Required Reading: Read Nietzsche, from Geneaology of Morals
Required Work: Review Questions on GM, set 2

Weds. 4/7

Required Reading: Read Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism”
Required Work: Review Questions on EH


Week 14

Mon. 4/12

Required Reading: David Gauthier, "Why Contractarianism?"
Required Work: Review Questions on Gauthier

Weds. 4/14

Required Reading: Martha Nussbaum, "Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach"
Required Work: Review Questions for Nussbaum


Week 15

Mon. 4/19

Required Reading: Students should go the WNYC website and listen to Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides, the first portion of the episode of Radiolab entitled “Morality”.
Required Work: Review Questions on "Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides"

Weds. 4/21

Required Reading: None
Required Work: Reflect on both Core Questions 1 and 2. Write a personal reflection of 250-500 words in length that responds to the questions listed below:

  • Have your answers, your thinking about, or your approach to answering the core questions changed since the course began?
  • If your answers, thinking, or approach changed, how did they change and why?
  • What, for you, has been the personal significance of considering these questions?

Type or print out your answer on a single sheet of white paper. Handwriting will not be accepted. Write in complete, well-formed sentences of English. Use a readable font of reasonable size, and double-space your lines. Answers will be read and discussed in class. Give your own opinion. Do not use any source other than your own thinking to answer the question.


Week 16: Finals Week

The Third Test will take place in class during our normal time on Wednesday, April 28.


Resources

Websites


Bibliography of Useful Sources

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