Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Monday's discussion:

These concepts were introduced:
  • Sufficient Condition
  • Necessary Condition
  • Necessary & Sufficient Condition(s)
We talked about arguments:
  • x is an argument if and only if:
  • x is a valid argument if and only if:
  • x is an sound argument if and only if:
We practiced identifying arguments, i.e., identifying conclusions and premises, figuring out if the argument is valid or invalid (and added missing premises to make them valid, if needed), and whether the argument is sound or not. Here were the examples:

Consider the arguments given below. Identify the conclusions of each passage. Identify the premises.

If the argument is valid, state the logical form of the argument (e.g., modus ponens). If the argument is invalid, explain state the name of the fallacy (e.g., affirming the consequent).

If the argument is valid, state whether it is sound or not (i.e., whether the premises are true).

1. “George Bush is the president now. If he’s the president, he works for the government. So, Bush works for the government.” Valid? Sound?

2. “John Kerry is the president now. If he’s the president, he works for the government. So, Kerry works for the government.” Valid? Sound?

3. “Abortion is not wrong. If it’s wrong, then it’s illegal. But, it’s not illegal. So, it’s not wrong.” Valid? Sound?

4. “If Bob plays professional basketball, then he’s over 4 feet tall. Bob is over 4 feet tall, so he’s a professional basketball player.” Valid? Sound?

5. “If having the death penalty prevents future crime, then it’s right to have it. However, the death penalty does not prevent future crime (at least, that’s what most of the studies show). So it’s wrong for us to have the death penalty.”

Valid? Sound?

6. “Either a fetus is a ‘person’ or the fetus is not a ‘person.’ It’s not true that the fetus is not a ‘person.’ So, the fetus is a ‘person.’ It’s wrong to kill ‘persons.’ Since the fetus is a person, abortion is wrong.” Valid? Sound?

7. “If everything has a cause, then all our behavior is caused. If all our behavior is caused, then we are like robots. If we are like robots, then we aren’t free. But we are free, so it’s not true that everything has a cause.” Valid? Sound?

8. “Either the world had a beginning or it did not have a beginning. Obviously the world did not NOT have a beginning, since if there were no beginning there would be no world. But there is a world, so the world had a beginning. Therefore God exists.”

Valid? Sound?

9. “Some say that ‘Might makes right.’ But if that view were true, then it’d be OK for strong people to beat-up weaker people whenever they wanted. But that’s not OK, so it’s not true that ‘Might makes right.’ Whatever makes ‘right’ isn’t ‘might’!” Valid? Sound?

10. “Some say that a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body. But if this were true, then a woman would have a right to sell her body as a prostitute, and she would have the right to use her body to kill other people. But women don’t have these rights, so women don’t have rights to do whatever they want with their bodies.” Valid? Sound?

Moral Progress?

Day 1: Introductory thoughts about what this class is about:

"Moral Progress"?

  • What is it?
  • Does it ever happen?
  • How does it happen?
  • What prevents or discourages it from happening?
Moral Progress (improvement, getting better, getting closer to the moral truth about what should be done and how things ought to be) regarding:
  1. thinking, reasoning, arguing, debating
  2. feelings and attitudes
  3. actions, behavior, policies
Three "logical skills":
  1. attending to the meaning(s) of unclear terms: what do you mean?
  2. making claims precise regarding number or quantity: all or some (if some, then which ones?)?
  3. identifying missing unstated premises, unstated assumptions that need to be identifed so the pattern of reasoning is totally clear: making the argument logically valid.
The 3 examples below were used to illustrate the importance of these three skills for identifying and evaluating arguments.

Some brief arguments from history, to use to identify some logical skills to help us better address issues in the present. These three arguments (or kinds of claims) were made and much debated. In some parts of the world, they still are:

About women: “It’s wrong to allow women to get a higher education because women are very emotional beings and this makes reasoning and abstract thought quite difficult for them.

About slavery: Slave-holder says: “Slavery is morally right because we benefit greatly from these slaves!”

About animals: “Since animals are not rational, it’s morally ok to raise them to be eaten.


PHI 302: Introduction to Philosophical Ethics

· 11:00 am - 11:50 am, MWF, Sale Hall 105: 44981 - HPHI 302G - 06

· 12:00 pm - 12:50 pm, MWF, Sale Hall 107: 44976 - HPHI 302G – 01

· 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm, MWF, Sale Hall 107: 44977 - HPHI 302G - 02

Instructor: Nathan Nobis, Ph.D.

Office: Philosophy & Religion Department, Sale Hall

Office Hours: TBA

aphilosopher@gmail.com [best way to reach me]

Catalogue Description: Provides an introduction to philosophical reflection about the nature and function of morality. Readings will include both historical and contemporary materials.

Extended Description: This course provides students with the opportunity to improve their skills at reasoning critically about moral issues. We will practice identifying precise and unambiguous moral conclusions (i.e., exact perspectives taken on moral issues) and the reasons given for and against these conclusions. We will then practice evaluating these reasons to see if they provide strong rational support for these moral conclusions or not. We will think about what helps people think more carefully and critically about moral issues and what factors and influences discourage and prevent this. We will discuss influential ethical theories and moral principles – answers to the questions ‘What’s the basic difference between a right and wrong action?’ and ‘What makes right actions right and wrong actions wrong?’ – and apply methods critical thinking skills to moral problems such as female genital mutilation, homosexuality, famine and absolute poverty, racism, sexism, euthanasia and assisted suicide, the treatment of animals, abortion, capital punishment, vegetarianism, and civil disobedience, among others.


· James and Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 5th Ed. [EMP]

· James and Stuart Rachels, eds. The Right Thing to Do, 4th Ed. [RTD]

· Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments [RULEBOOK]

· Additional readings will be online for students to download, print, read and bring to class.

Assignments and grading:

(1) Readings and reading quizzes: The reading assignments should be done before you come to class. Some of the readings are difficult. I urge you to read them more than once, preferably before class, and after we discuss it in class. We will discuss strategies to read them more effectively. To help encourage careful reading and reflection on the readings – which will contribute to better discussion – there will be periodic reading quizzes. These will be basic factual questions about the readings and will be easy points for those who have read carefully and thoughtfully. 20 points total.

(2) Six Writing Assignments: These must by typed and carefully written: you will have to read some articles on how to write clear, well-organized argumentative essays. These will graded vigorously but you will have the opportunity to re-write some papers, if you would like the opportunity to learn more and improve your abilities. 10 points each. (60 points total)

(4) Three Exams. All of lecture, discussion and reading content is fair game. I will give you a study sheet of possible questions for each exam to help focus your studying. Exams will include multiple choice, short answer, and short essay questions. 40 points each. (120 points total).

(5) Attendance and participation are required. This course is based on discussion, dialogue and cool, calm, rational debate: thus class attendance is required and will be taken daily. You are allowed 1 missed class for any reason; after that 5 points will be deducted from your overall grade per missed class. Absences can be excused only if you bring me an excuse in writing. Students with perfect attendance will receive 5 extra points added to their overall score.

(6) There will likely be extra credit opportunities, events addressing ethical and/or philosophical issues that I’ll encourage you to attend and write up a summary and reaction to for variable bonus points.

A NOTE ON PLAGIARISM: Cheating and plagiarism are forms of lying (to the instructor, the school, future teachers and employers, and yourself, among others) and theft (of other people’s ideas and words) and are grounds for failing the course. If you submit a plagiarized paper (e.g., a paper you took, in whole or in part, from the internet), I will likely notice this and you will then fail this course immediately. Do your own work!


Fill in this sheet to determine your grade out of 200 possible points:


Points Possible:

My points:

Paper 1


Paper 2


Paper 3


Paper 4


Paper 5


Paper 6


Exam 1


Exam 2


Exam 3


Reading Quizzes:

20 total


Variable +‘s & -’s

Extra Credit, if avail.

Variable +’s

100 +

Grade = total points / 200;

Letter grade will be according to standard percentages.

Reading, Lecture and Discussion Schedule, subject to slight changes:

Readings should be done in advance for the day assigned. The EMP has 13 chapters, and we will work through the book roughly in the order it presents the theories and issues with additional readings from RTD and other sources. Exact readings and assignments will be announced in class. If you come to class, you should know exactly what the current assignments are.

I will likely get a WEBCT page for this class or some other electronic format for discussion.

First reading assignment:

· RTD: Ch. 2, “Some Basic Points About Arguments”

· RULEBOOK: preface, introduction, Ch. I, II, & VI.

· RTD: Ch.1 "A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy"

If you ever have any questions about anything, please just ask!