PHIL 3100 -- Ethics
Spring 2012
Lecture: MWF 11:00-11:50
HLMS 229

Chris Heathwood
Office: HLMS 192
Hours: Mon 1:30-4:30, and by appointment

Course Description

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.

Course Website
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.

Class Mates
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.

Course Requirements
1. Technology.  You must have an email account and regular access to the internet, and you must check your 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:

10% 20 points
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
100% 200 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:

176-179.5 B+ 156-159.5 C+ 136-139.5 D+

185-200 A 165-175.5 B 145-155.5 C 125-135.5 D 0-119.5
180-184.5 A– 160-164.5 B– 140-144.5 C– 120-124.5 D-

Course Schedule (subject to change)

Date Topic Readings (due on date listed; subject to change)
W1/18 Introductions, Syllabus  
  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;
Huemer, §§2.1-2.3.
M 1/30 Subjectivism Hume, excerpts on subjectivism;
Huemer, §§3.1-3.3.
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
M 2/6
Divine Command Theory
Plato, Euthyphro (excerpt);
Huemer, §§3.4-3.6.

W 2/8   Huemer, §4.1
  F 2/10 Reductionism Moore, from Principia Ethica, §§5-7, 9-10, and esp. 13;
Huemer, §4.2;
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;
Huemer, §§5.1-5.4.
  F 2/17 Non-Naturalism/Intuitionism, Nihilism Mackie, "The Subjectivity of Values";
Huemer, §5.5.
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
(no reading)
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"
M 3/19 Preferentism
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

F 5/4
Th 5/10 OPTIONAL RETAKE EXAM, 9:00 a.m. sharp, in our room

Academic Integrity
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 (; 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 and at

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.

Disability Services
If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner so that your needs can be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. Contact: 303-492-8671, Center for Community, N200, and

Religious Observances
Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to reasonably and fairly deal 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, so we can address them.  For more information about the university’s policies on these matters, see

Classroom Behavior
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. See policies at and at

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