PHIL 3100 -- Ethics
Lecture: MWF 11:00-11:50
Office: HLMS 192
Hours: Mon 1:30-4:30, and by appointment
We make moral judgments – e.g., "You shouldn't litter," "It's unfair that some children have no health care," "Friendship helps make life worth living," "Abortion is wrong," "Martin Luther King was a great man" – all the time. But what are we doing when we do this? Are we describing an objective moral reality, or ultimately just expressing our feelings? Are such statements ever true? Can we ever know one to be true? If there are moral facts, are they just a subclass of the natural facts about the world? Assuming that we do have moral obligations, why should we care about them? These are some questions in metaethics, to which the first part of this course will provide an introduction.
Then we will turn to normative ethics, where we attempt to figure out which moral claims – and, in particular, which fundamental moral principles – are actually true. Our main questions will be, What makes an act right or wrong?, and, What makes a state of affairs good or bad? Consequentialists believe that an act's rightness or wrongness is to be explained solely in terms of how good or bad its outcome would be. We will explore this theory in detail, as well as theories about what makes an outcome good or bad. Deontologists reject the view that consequences are all that matter. They typically believe that we have special obligations (e.g., to our children, to people with whom we have made agreements) that are not explained by the value of outcomes. Deontologists also typically believe in constraints against certain kinds of behavior (e.g., lying, harming the innocent) even when doing so would lead to the best outcome. We will explore deontology as well.
This is a difficult class, especially for those not majoring in philosophy (but even for many of those who are, as well). Every semester, some people fail it. You must have taken at least two courses in philosophy at the university level to be eligible to take this course. But more experience than that is recommended. Talk to me about it if you are unsure.
The course website, which you should check regularly, can be found here:
Here you will find:
One book is required:
Michael Huemer, Ethical Intuitionism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). ISBN: 0230573746.
It is available at the CU Bookstore. There will be many additional required readings, which are linked to below on the course schedule. Some of these require a password, which I will give you in class.
So that you will have someone from whom to get the notes (and any other pertinent info) should you miss class, introduce yourself to two 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 leave their phones on my desk for the remainder of class; repeat offenders will be excused from class. When you get to class, turn your cell phone OFF.
If you use a laptop in class, you may use it only for taking notes. No web-surfing, emailing, IM-ing, facebooking, etc. If you use a laptop, disable the wifi.
2. Many Pop Quizzes (10%). To do well in this class, you must attend class regularly, arrive on time, complete each reading assignment on time, take notes on readings and in class, ask questions when you have them, and contribute to class discussions. There will be pop quizzes designed to test whether you have done the assigned reading and have been coming to class (and are coming to class on time – pop quizzes occur at the start of class). They are open-note, but not open-book. If you keep up with the readings, come to class, and take notes on both, the quizzes should be easy. If you don't do these things, they will be very difficult. You can drop your lowest quiz score.
3. Two Papers (30%). You are required to write two papers (see below for tentative due dates). I'll say more about the papers later. Late papers will be penalized unless you have a legitimate, documented excuse.
4. Three Exams (60%). There will be three exams during the semester, one for each unit of the course (see below for dates). These will be in-class, short-answer, bluebook exams. 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, the class meeting before the exam will be devoted to reviewing the study guide. But you must come prepared for this review session by having written out answers to questions on the study guide.
During our assigned final exam slot (see below for date and time), instead of a having a final exam, you will have the opportunity to retake one of the earlier exams. The retake exam won't have the same questions as the original exam, but it will cover the same material (and the same study guide will apply). If you don't improve your score on the retake exam, this won't hurt you – I will keep your original score. Doing a retake is optional.
If you miss an 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). Otherwise, you must use the retake exam as your makeup. If you must miss an exam, you need to let me know in advance.
Your final grade for the course is determined according to the following scheme:
|Exam 1||20%||40 points|
|Paper 1||15%||30 points|
|Exam 2||20%||40 points|
|Paper 2||15%||30 points|
|Exam 3||20%||40 points|
Remember that you have the option of retaking one of the three exams (during finals week) to improve your score on it.
There are no "extra-credit" opportunities (with the exception of possible extra-credit questions on exams). So there's no need to ask if you can "do extra credit" to boost your grade.
We will use a standard "non-curved" grading scale, as follows:
Course Schedule (subject to change)
|Date||Topic||Readings (due on date listed; subject to change)|
|F 1/20||Philosophy, Ethics, Metaethics|
|M 1/23||Philosophy, Ethics, Metaethics||Huemer, Introduction.|
|W1/25||Propositions, Necessity, Analyticity, A Priority||Van Cleve, "Necessity, Analyticity, and the A Priori," 15-27 (rest optional)|
|F 1/27||Non-Cognitivism||Ayer, "Critique of Ethics and Theology," 102-113;
|M 1/30||Subjectivism||Hume, excerpts on subjectivism;
|W 2/1||Subjectivism||Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, I.iii.1, last two paragraphs;
Moore, "The Nature of Moral Philosophy," 329-334.
|F 2/3||N O C L A S S -- S N O W D A Y|
||Divine Command Theory
||Plato, Euthyphro (excerpt);
|W 2/8||Huemer, §4.1
|F 2/10||Reductionism||Moore, from Principia Ethica, §§5-7, 9-10, and esp. 13;
Hare, "Naturalism," especially §5.4.
|M 2/13||The Open Question Argument||HOMEWORK DUE (see "What We Did Each Day")|
|W 2/15||Non-Naturalism/Intuitionism||Ross, from The Right and the Good, 19-20, 29-34, 39-41;
|F 2/17||Non-Naturalism/Intuitionism, Nihilism||Mackie, "The Subjectivity of Values";
|M 2/20||Moral Disagreement||Huemer, ch. 6.|
|W 2/22||REVIEW FOR EXAM 1 (do study guide in advance)|
|F 2/24||Exam 1 - Metaethics|
|M 2/27||Return, Review Exam 1;
Discuss Paper 1
|W 2/29||Normative Ethics of Behavior||Mill, excerpts from Utilitarianism|
|F 3/2||Utilitarianism||Feldman, "What is Act Utilitarianism?"|
|M 3/5||Understanding Utilitarianism||Feldman, "Act Utilitarianism: Pro and Con," 36-41.|
|W 3/7||Objections to Utilitarianism||Feldman, "Problems for Act Utilitarianism," 52-60.
Sinnott-Armstrong, "Consequentialism," §5
|F 3/9||Rule Utilitarianism
Paper 1 Due
|(no new reading)|
|M 3/12||Axiology, Hedonism||Heathwood, "Welfare"|
|W 3/14||Arg. from Psych. Hedonism||Bentham, excerpt from IPML|
|F 3/16||The Experience Machine
||Nozick, "The Experience Machine"|
Objective List Theory
|Parfit, "What Makes Someone's Life Go Best?"|
|W 3/21||REVIEW FOR EXAM 2 (do study guide in advance)|
|F 3/23||Exam #2 – Utilitarianism, Axiology|
S P R I N G B R E A K
|M 4/2||Return, Review Exam 2||(no readings for today)|
|W 4/4||Kant's Categorical Imperative||Kant, excerpts from Groundwork;
Feldman, "Kant," up to 106.
|F 4/6||Kant's Categorical Imperative||Feldman, "Kant," rest.|
|M 4/9||Deontology, Constraints, Special Obligations, Options||McNaughton and Rawling, "Deontology," (§§4 and 5.2 are optional)|
|W4/11||Rossian Pluralism||Ross, "What Makes Right Acts Right?"|
|F 4/13||Assessing Deontology||Otsuka, "Are Deontological Constraints Irrational?"|
|M 4/16||The Doctrine of Double Effect||Foot, "Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect"|
|W 4/18||Killing vs. Letting Die||Thomson, "Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem"|
|F 4/20||N O C L A S S|
|M 4/23||The Trolley Problem
Paper 2 Due
|W 4/25||Experimental Philosophy||Greene, "The Secret Joke of Kant's Soul" (pp. 35-46, 66-77.)|
|F 4/27||REVIEW FOR EXAM 3 (do study guide in advance)|
|M 4/30||Exam 3 – Deontology
|W 5/2||Return and Review Exam 3; FCQ's (?); Course Wrap-Up
||REVIEW FOR RETAKE EXAM|
|Th 5/10||OPTIONAL RETAKE EXAM, 9:00 a.m. sharp, in our room|
All students of the University of Colorado at 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). Other information on the Honor Code can be found at colorado.edu/policies/honor.html and at colorado.edu/academics/honorcode/.
Anyone caught violating the 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.
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Discrimination and Harassment
The University of Colorado at Boulder Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures, the University of Colorado Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures, and the University of Colorado Conflict of Interest in Cases of Amorous Relationships Policy apply to all students, staff, and faculty. Any student, staff, or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of sexual harassment or discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127, or the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) at 303-492-5550. Information about the ODH, the above referenced policies, and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at colorado.edu/odh.