Office: HLMS 192
Hours: Fridays 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, and by appointment
This course provides an introduction to ethics by way of a study of doctrines and arguments primarily in the normative ethics of behavior (the theory of right and wrong) and practical ethics. Our goals are to understand some important theories and positions in these areas, to understand and evaluate important arguments for and against these views, to develop the ability to extract, explain, and evaluate arguments from philosophical texts, and to come to our own reasoned views on these issues. Our topics will include simple logic and critical thinking, divine command theory, cultural relativism, utilitarianism, the trolley problem, rights theory, moderate deontology, slave reparations, vegetarianism, and abortion.
The course website, which you should check regularly, can be found here:
Here you will find:
There will be no book! All readings are online and are or will be linked below on the course schedule. You will need a password to access some of them, which I will give you in class. Although there is no book, you will need a clicker, which can be purchased at the CU Bookstore. More on clickers below.
I will be using slides in lecture, which I will make available via links on the course schedule below. But the availability of these slides is no substitute for good note-taking. Many important details are not on the slides!
So that you will have someone from whom to get the notes and other pertinent information should you miss class, introduce yourself to two of your classmates, and get their email addresses and phone numbers.
1. Technology. You must have an email account and regular access to the internet, and you must check your colorado.edu email address and the course website frequently.
Text messaging during class is strictly prohibited. First-time offenders will be asked to stop; repeat offenders will lose points. When you get to class, please turn your cell phone OFF and put it away.
The use of laptops is also prohibited. This is because students who use laptops in class do less well in college, as do those who sit near them. (See also: "Why students using laptops learn less in class even when they really are taking notes.")
If you simply must communicate with someone from the outside world during class, that's fine; please just step outside the room to do so.
2. Exams: There will be two exams: a midterm exam and a non-cumulative final exam. Each exam has two parts, and will take place over two class periods. The first part of each exam will consist of very-short-answer questions (e.g., multiple choice or true/false questions); the second part will consist of short-answer questions (questions that can usually be answered in a sentence to a paragraph). For the second part of each exam you'll need to bring a bluebook. Both parts of both exams will take place in class, and will be closed-note and closed-reading.
To help you prepare, and to give you an idea about the sorts of questions you can expect, a study guide will be made available before each exam. Furthermore, we will have a review day before each part of each exam where I will take your questions about the study guide. You must come prepared for these review sessions by having already written out your own answers to the questions on the study guide.
If you miss any part of any exam during the semester, you will be permitted to take a makeup exam only if you have a legitimate, documented excuse (e.g., non-trivial illness, death in the family, religious obligation). If you need to miss an exam, you need to let me know in advance.
3. Papers: Two papers are required. The first will be due about 1/3 of the way through the term, and the second will be due about 3/4 to 4/5 of the way through the term. Specific due dates will eventually be put on the course schedule below. The topic and a detailed structure for the first paper will be provided for you. The topic for the second will be more open-ended. I'll have more to say about papers in class, and there is a set of paper guidelines, which you should get to know.
Late papers will be penalized unless you have a legitimate, documented excuse; the penalty is 1/3 of a letter grade per day late (see the paper guidelines for more details on this).
4. Clicker Questions: Most lectures after the first week will feature clicker questions. You answer them using your i>clicker device, which you can purchase at the bookstore. You will receive credit simply for participating in the clicker questions -- i.e., you don't need to get the right answer to get the points (and there isn't even always a "right answer"). Occasionally, a student forgets their clicker, or the batteries die. Thus, I give each student one free pass on clickers: the first time you miss clicking-in, you will get the points anyway. Absolutely no free points after that -- no exceptions. If you miss clicking-in simply because you miss class, that will use up your free pass.
Clicking-in for an absent classmate by using their clicker on their behalf is a form of cheating. Cheating will earn you an F for the whole course. See the Honor Code section below.
If you have not already done so, you need to register your clicker immediately. Otherwise, I can't match your name to your clicker, and you won't be able to receive any clicker points.
5. Reading Quizzes: There will be quite a few pop quizzes throughout the semester. These quizzes are designed to test that you are doing and understanding the readings, and to give you, along with the clicker questions, an incentive never to miss class. For each reading, there will be a set of Reading Questions posted on the website. All of the questions on the pop quizzes will be taken directly from these reading questions. Furthermore, these quizzes are open-note. Thus, as you are doing each reading and taking notes on it, you should write down each question in your notes and then write your answer to it, which you can find by reading, studying, and re-reading the reading. Then bring these notes with you to class. All of the answers to the pop-quiz questions should then be right in your notes! So, yes, there is no reason that you all shouldn't ace all of the reading quizzes.
Quizzes are not restricted to readings that were due on the day of the quiz. They might cover readings that were due on earlier days.
You are permitted to use notes only that you yourself created from doing the reading; you cannot use or copy a classmate's notes. Though the pop quizzes are open-note, they are not open-book or "open-reading."
There might be a short homework assignment or two. If there are, they will be lumped in with your quiz grades.
Your final grade for the course is determined according to the following scheme:
|Midterm Exam, part 1||40 points|
|Midterm Exam, part 2||60 points|
|Second Paper||50 points|
|Final Exam, part 1||40 points|
|Final Exam, part 2||60 points|
|Clicker questions||50 points|
|Reading quizzes||50 points|
In other words, the two exams together make up half your grade, the two papers a quarter, and the clicker questions and reading quizzes the final quarter.
Though it's possible that I might offer extra-credit for something if the opportunity arises, please don't ask if you can do extra credit to boost your grade. If you want to get a good grade, do the actual work that the class asks you to do. That is, don't miss class, always arrive on time, always do the reading, take notes on readings and in class, ask questions when you have them, contribute to class discussions, start working on your papers early, start working on the study guides for exams well in advance, work on these study guides by actually writing out your answers to the questions on them (as you would have to do if it were a question on the real exam), come to the review sessions having already put a lot of work into the study guides, come to office hours when you are confused about the material, and arrange study groups with your classmates.
We will use a standard "non-curved" grading scale, as follows:
Since we don't grade on a curve, it is theoretically possible for everyone to get an A (and also for everyone to get an F). But assuming that grades are distributed throughout the spectrum of grades as they have been for this class in the past, the average grade in the class will probably be about a B–.
Course Schedule (subject to change)
(links below are to lecture slides)
|Readings (Reading Questions are here)
(due on date listed; subject to change)
|Tu 8/23||Introductions, Roll; Syllabus|
|Th 8/25||What is Philosophy?
Logic, Truth, Validity, Soundness
[Slides for Course Introduction]
|Tu 8/30||The Normative Ethics of Behavior
||Shafer-Landau, "Introduction" (2011)
Rachels, "What is Morality?" (2009)
|Th 9/1||The Normative Ethics of Behavior [Slides for Intro to NEB]
Religious Approaches to Ethics
|Mortimer, "Morality is Based on God's Commands" (1950)
|Tu 9/6||The Euthyphro Problem||Plato, from Euthyphro (~380 B.C.E.)
|Th 9/8||Finish Religious Approaches
[Slides for Religious Approaches]
Sociological Approaches to Ethics
|Antony, "Good Minus God" (2011)
OPTIONAL: Amanda Askell, "Vegetarianism, Abortion, and Moral Empathy" (2016)
|| Cultural Relativism
||Benedict, from "Anthropology and the Abnormal" (1934)
Herodotus, from Histories (~450 B.C.E.)
Rachels, "Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (2003), §§2.1-2.3
OPTIONAL: Rae Ellen Bichell, "When People Ate People, A Strange Disease Emerged" (2016)
|Th 9/15||CR and Tolerance
The Cultural Differences Argument
|Lewis, from Mere Christianity (1958)
Rachels, "Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (2003), §§2.4-2.8
|Tu 9/20||Arg. from the Eval. of Cultures
[Slides for Cultural Relativism]
Homework Assignment Due
|Midgley, "Trying Out One's New Sword" (1981)
Karimjee, "Whose Great Idea Was This?" (2016)
|Th 9/22||What is Act Utilitarianism?
First Paper Assignment
Philosophy Paper FAQ
|Mill, from Utilitarianism (1863), pp. 1-4 (2/3 of the way down p. 4)
Feldman, "What is Act Utilitarianism?" (1978), pp. 16-26
|Tu 9/27||Understanding Utilitarianism
First Paper Due
|Mill, from Utilitarianism (1863), rest.
Feldman, "Act Utilitarianism: Pro and Con" (1978), pp. 36-41.
|Th 9/29||Utilitarianism and Practicality||Rachels, "The Debate Over Utilitarianism" (2003).
Thomson, "K, LD, & the TP" (1976), §1 (the rest is optional).
|Tu 10/4||Utilitarianism & the Trolley Problem
[Slides for Utilitarianism]
|Radiolab, "Morality" (up to 13:40)
Start working on Study Guide for Midterm!
|Th 10/6||Review for Midterm Exam (do study guide in advance)|
|Tu 10/11||Midterm Part 1
Return Midterm Part 1; Review for Midterm Part 2
|Th 10/13||Midterm Part 2 BRING A BLUEBOOK!
|Tu 10/18||Rights Theory||Nozick, from Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), pp. 26-33
Tännsjö, "Moral Rights," (2008), pp. 73-80.
|Th 10/20|| Rights Theory
||Tännsjö, "Moral Rights," (2008), pp. 80-89.|
|Tu 10/25||Finish Rights Theory
[slides for Rights Theory]
Ross and Prima Facie Duties
|Ross, "What Makes Right Acts Right?" (1930), pp. 16-33.
|Th 10/27||Rossian Pluralism
[Slides for Ross]
|Ross, "What Makes Right Acts Right?" (1930), re-read ¶ 9 including footnote and ¶ 10; read pp. 34-42.|
|Tu 11/1||Background on Slave Reparations
Robinson's Arguments in favor
|Boonin, "Don't Know Much About (Black) History" (2011), pp. 7-16
Boonin, "The State of the Union(s)" (2011), pp. 16-20.
Robinson, "America's Debt to Blacks" (2000)
OPTIONAL: Lyons, from "Corrective Justice, Equal Opportunity, and the Legacy of Slavery and Jim Crow" (2004)
|Th 11/3||Horowitz's Arguments against
[slides for Slave Reparations]
|Horowitz, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too" (2001)|
|Tu 11/8||Vegetarianism||Boonin and Oddie, "Arguments from Analogy" (2005)
Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People" (2004), §§1-2
|Th 11/10||Vegetarianism: extracto exercises||New York Times Contest and the winning essay
(also read some of the "Comments" for some sample arguments for why it's ethical to eat meat)
|Tu 11/15||class cancelled due to illness
|Th 11/17||Homework #2 Due
[Slides for Vegetarianism]
Second Paper Assignment
|Philosophy Paper FAQ
Marquis, "Why Abortion is Immoral" (1989), thru §II
M 11/21 - F 11/25: T H A N K S G I V I N G B R E A K
|Tu 11/29||Marquis on Abortion
Second Paper Due
|Marquis, "Why Abortion is Immoral" (1989), §§III-VI
Paske and Thomson on Abortion
[Slides for Abortion]
|Paske, "Abortion and the Neo-Natal Right to Life" (1998)
Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion" (1971), 47-49.
|Tu 12/6||Review for Final Exam (do study guide in advance)
|Th 12/8||Final Exam, Part 1
Return Final Part 1; Review for Final Part 2
|M 12/12||Final Exam, Part 2, Monday, Dec. 12, 1:30 PM, in our room. BRING A BLUEBOOK!|
Accommodations for Disabilities
If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please give me a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner (for exam accommodations you must provide your letter at least one week prior to the exam) so that your needs can be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. Contact Disability Services at 303-492-8671 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see Temporary Injuries guidelines under the Quick Links at the Disability Services website and discuss your needs with your professor.
Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance. Please let me know well in advance about any such conflicts, and we'll work together to resolve them. See campus policy regarding religious observances for full details.
Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, color, culture, religion, creed, politics, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression, age, disability, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. For more information, see the policies on classroom behavior and the student code.
Discrimination And Harassment
We at the University of Colorado Boulder are committed to maintaining a positive learning, working, and living environment. CU-Boulder will not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment based upon Protected Classes or related retaliation against or by any employee or student. For purposes of this CU-Boulder policy, "Protected Classes" refers to race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation or political philosophy. Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSC) at 303-492-5550. Information about the OIEC, the above referenced policies, and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be found at the OIEC website. The full policy on discrimination and harassment contains additional information.
All students of the University of Colorado Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior. All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (email@example.com; 303-735-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Additional information regarding the Honor Code policy can be found online and at the Honor Code Office.
Anyone caught violating CU's academic integrity policy (in any way) will automatically receive an F for this course, and may be subject to expulsion from the university. I take cheating very seriously.