Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sping 2007 Syllabus

Also available here in PDF.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- Martin Luther King Jr. ,‘48

PHI 302: Introduction to Philosophical Ethics


12 - 12:50, MWF, Sale Hall, Room 105: 42308 - HPHI 302G - 01 ; Turnitin.com code: 1762563

1 - 1:50, MWF, Sale Hall, Room 105; 42309 - HPHI 302G - 02 ; Turnitin.com code: 1762573

Instructor: Nathan Nobis, Ph.D.

Office: Philosophy & Religion Department, Sale Hall 113

Office Hours: 10-12 MWF and by appointment (but please let me know if you want to meet)

Best way to reach me: aphilosopher@gmail.com

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, environmentalism, and civil disobedience, among others.

Required course materials:

If you cannot get your own copies of these books and other materials, you cannot be in this class.

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

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

3. Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments [RULEBOOK]

4. A pass-code for the Thompson Turnitin system: http://insite.turnitin2.thomson.com/ (This code should be for sale at http://www.ichapters.com/ in addition to the bookstore). ISBN 1413030181

5. A small budget for downloading and printing some articles to read and bring to class.

Classroom rules:

1. Be on time: being late is disruptive and wastes time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not get full attendance credit.

2. No using cell phones, PDA’s, text messaging, listening to music on headphones, reading a newspaper or doing work for other classes. Computers can only be used for taking notes and other class-related work, not personal web surfing. Anyone using such devices for unacceptable purposes will be asked to leave. No such devices can be used or accessed during tests.

3. No food in class.

Assignments and grading:

(1) Readings

The reading assignments should be done before you come to class. Many of the readings are difficult. You will need to read them at least three times. To better comprehend the readings, you should first skim the article or chapter, then you should read more carefully, taking notes, making an outline, underlining/highlighting, etc. Doing this kind of work is necessary for an adequate understanding of the material. I expect that your books will show signs of wear.

(2) Reading quizzes

To help encourage careful reading and reflection on the readings – which will contribute to better discussion – there will be reading quizzes, at least once a week. These will be basic, factual questions about the readings and will be easy points for those who have read carefully and thoughtfully. Reading quizzes cannot be made-up except for official, excused absences (3 points each; 45 points total)

(3) Six Writing Assignments

· All written work must be submitted both in hardcopy in class (I do not accept any papers by email) and through the Thompson Turnitin system: http://insite.turnitin2.thomson.com/ If the paper is not submitted through the Turnitin system, it will not be graded and so you will receive a zero.

· Papers must by typed and carefully written: put your name, email, the date, course # and time at the top of the first page; DO NOT USE A COVER PAGE. And give your paper a title.

· They 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; I might also require that you take your paper to the Writing Lab to work with their staff.

· No late papers will be accepted: you will have plenty of time to write the papers, so you need to make wise use of that time. (10 points each; 60 points total)

A WARNING ABOUT 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 or some other illegitimate source), the instructor (with the help of Turnitin.com) will notice this and you will then fail this course immediately: no excuses will be accepted. It is your responsibility to know what plagiarism is.
Here are some suggestions to avoid plagiarism: do not check the internet for anything related to your papers: instead use the texts required for the course and think for yourself; do not take phrases from the texts; put all of your writings in your own words; do not cut and paste anything from the internet into your paper; do not visit Wikipedia; do not take articles from online encyclopedias; do not visit online dictionaries; use an acceptable citation method (e.g., MLA, APA, etc.). If you would like additional sources to learn more about a topic, see the instructor.

(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 at start of the class time. You are allowed 1 missed class for any reason; after that 3 points will be deducted from your overall grade per missed class and 1.5 points will be deducted for being late to class. Absences can be excused only if you bring me an excuse in writing. Students with perfect attendance will receive 10 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.


Fill in this sheet to determine your grade out of 225 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:



Variable +‘s & -’s

Extra Credit, if avail.

Variable +’s


Grade = total points / 225;

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 and posted on the course blog/webpage at http://philosophy302.blogspot.com . If you come to class, you should know exactly what the current assignments are.

First assignments:


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

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

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

Another assignment, by the end of the first week or as soon as you decide you are going to be in this class: email the instructor at aphilosopher@gmail.com to let him know that you are going to be in this class. The email should say which class you are, your name, your major and ask a question or give a comment about the class so far. This will help the instructor make an email list for the class.

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

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