Friday, August 31, 2007

It will be difficult for you to make sense of some of the articles we'll be reading. This is partly because they discuss abstract ideas that you're not accustomed to thinking about. They may also use technical vocabulary which is new to you. Sometimes it won't be obvious what the overall argument of the paper is supposed to be. The prose may be complicated, and you may need to pick the article apart sentence by sentence. Here are some tips to make the process easier and more effective.


Intro to Ethics:
How do you write a philosophy paper?

First writing assignment: due Wednesday, September 12 in class and submitted via the system here:
You need to BUY a card with account from the bookstore: this will give you your PIN to make an account. These are the class code #'s:
1956288 Ethics - 12 PM
1956292 Ethics - 1 PM
If you have trouble registering, see the syllabus for guidance on what to do.

No late papers will be accepted; you need to get the PIN card and do the paper before the due date. No excuses.

4-5 pages

The assignment is this:
A friend knows that you are in a philosophy course. This friend asks you to come to her group to give a little presentation on what philosophy essays are like and how to effectively write them. Your job is to carefully read the readings below on how to write philosophy and then effectively summarize them for this person. Write up the text that you could read -- or pass out -- to this audience so that they can learn from you. Write so you teach them how to write a philosophical essay: pass on what you learn from Pryor, Weston and the other sources below! This assignment requires you to summarize advice from a number of different sources and explain this advice to other people in your own words.

There are a two writings on how to write a philosophy paper that you need to read. Please read:

1. An online article by Jim Pryor called "Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper":
2. An online article by Peter Horban called “Writing a Philosophy Paper”

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.

9-10= excellent
8 = good
7 = fair
6 = poor
5 or below = very poor

They will be graded on clarity, organization, thoroughness, grammar and spelling, and, most generally, whether your reader would get a good sense for what philosophical / argumentative essays are like and how to write them.

Although citations -- i.e., direct quotations -- are not needed for this paper, if you use them you should use an official citation method that you learned in introductory English. Guidance on how to do so is found here, among other places:

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Of Dog Fights and Men

by Ben Crair

Only at TNR Online
Post date: 08.29.07

On Monday, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick plead guilty to federal charges of dog fighting, including charges that he personally endorsed the execution of underperforming dogs by hanging or drowning. For insight into the reaction to Vick's case, The New Republic spoke with ethicist Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. His book Animal Liberation, first published in 1975, is considered the foundational text of the animal rights movement. He discussed the sorry lives of the American pig, the ethical difference between hunting and dog fighting, and why both of those are minor cruelties in the scale of things.

What do you make of the public reaction to Michael Vick's involvement in illegal dog fighting?

Well, I think in a sense it's quite fair. It seems from the allegation that Michael Vick did horrible things to dogs. If he did what's alleged, people should be disgusted and revolted by it. From my point of view, what is regrettable is that people only react so strongly to such things when they occur with dogs. If something similar had been done with pigs or chickens, the reaction probably would have been much milder. That seems to me to be wrong. I think pigs suffer just as much as dogs, and, in terms of what we do to pigs in this country in general, they suffer a lot more cruelty than dogs do because there are so many of them in factory farms in appalling conditions. That's the incongruity. It's not that there's an overreaction to the Vick business, it's rather that there's an underreaction to what's happening elsewhere.

Basketball player Stephon Marbury was widely criticized for telling reporters, "We don't say anything about people who shoot deer or shoot other animals. You know, from what I hear, dog fighting is a sport." Do you think his comparison was valid?

Well, the aim of a hunter is to kill the animal with as little pain as possible--or it should be. That's the ethic that you get in sport hunting, at least. I'm not condoning or supporting sport hunting but there is a distinction in that the good hunter will shoot the animal in a vital place where it will drop dead immediately. It won't suffer. It seems pretty clear that the dogs that didn't fight well that Michael Vick and his associates killed were not killed instantly at all. They were drowned, for example. Drowning is obviously a much more distressing death than being shot with a bullet through the brain or in the heart.

Has the reaction to the Vick case exposed a schizophrenia in the way the public judges offenses against animals?

That comparison that you just asked me to make between dog fighting and sport-hunting is interesting in itself because these are both really very minor cruelties in the terms of the scale of things. The big thing that is going undiscussed here is the industrial raising of animals for food. Just in terms of the numbers, it's so vastly greater than sport-hunting, which in turn is a lot bigger than dog fighting. We're talking literally about billions of animals each year being reared in conditions that don't enable them to have a minimally decent life and then being killed in mass-production factory ways that again often are not painless. So that's the schizophrenia, that all of this hidden suffering that's engaged in by supposedly respectable corporations and that people then buy in their supermarkets is the thing that is unspoken. It's not the recreational activities that we should be focusing on.

Has there been an increase of interest in animal cruelty recently?

I think so. At the 2006 elections there were a number of animal anti-cruelty initiatives passed. There's been a bit of an upsurge in it and I would say that the response to Vick is consistent with that. People are starting to realize that this is an issue that a lot of people are taking quite seriously now. Perhaps that is going to have some larger political ramifications as well.

Ben Crair is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Logic handout

Today I gave out this logic handout and we worked through some sample arguments.

Logic and Historical Moral Issues

This link summarizes the discussion we had on the first day of class. (This was written to be a section of an article on animal experimentation). It illustrates the methods we will use to try to answer moral questions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

For Monday

First reading assignments:

Rachels, RTD: Ch. 2, “Some Basic Points About Arguments” Due Monday, 8/28. If you don't yet have the books, I have that chapter available online here:

You must, however, get the books soon!

Rachels, RTD: Ch.1 "A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy" Due Wednesday, 8/30

First writing 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 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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


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

Syllabus @

12 - 12:50, MWF, Sale Hall, Room 105: 41609 - HPHI 302G - 01; code: 1956288 Password = ethics

1 - 1:50, MWF, Sale Hall, Room 105; 41610 - HPHI 302G - 02; code: 1956292 Password = ethics

Professor Nathan Nobis (, – best way to reach him)

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)

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 rational support for these 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 issues such as female genital mutilation, homosexuality, famine and absolute poverty, racism, sexism, speciesism, 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, 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. A small budget for printing a few articles from online to read and bring to class for discussion.

4. A pass-code for the Thompson Turnitin web-based anti-plagiarism system that you must purchase at the bookstore: The class code, which you will need to register your account, is above.

Technical support: Some students have found that they have invalid pin codes for Turnitin. If they find that they have a pin code that is not registering properly, they should contact Thompson. They should go to the following web site and choose to Chat or send an e-mail to us.

Buying a code online: Students can purchase codes online but the pin code will be shipped through the mail. Currently they do not offer Turnitin pin codes as an instant access pin code. If students want to purchase the pin code online they can go to: Enter the ISBN: 1-4130-3018-1

Basic Responsibilities:

  1. Always do the readings. Do them carefully, in the proper (quiet, distraction-free) environment and with adequate time given to them. Come to class so we can have an informed, responsible and intelligent discussion of them and the issues they raise. (More on this below).
  2. Chronic tardiness to class will not be tolerated. Certainly, sometimes circumstances cause one to be late for class but these times should be the exception. Students who cannot make it to class on time are encouraged to change their habits or drop the course. If you do come in late, please do so in a quiet manner so that you do not disrupt class.
  3. Attendance and participation are mandatory. After three unexcused absences, your final grade for the class will be lowered by one letter grade. Subsequent unexcused absences will continue to lower your final grade at the same rate. Each class period a sign-in sheet will be passed around to take role. It is your responsibility to sign it. If your name is not on the sheet, then you will be counted absent for that day.
  4. Distractions are prohibited. No using cell phones, PDA’s, Sidekicks, 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 web surfing. Anyone using such devices for unacceptable purposes, doing work for other classes and is otherwise disengaged or disruptive will be asked to leave.
  5. No eating in class.
  6. “Help me help you”: The instructor should be informed of medical, family, or other problems that necessitate missing class or that interfere with your work. In addition, students are encouraged to visit with the instructor during his office hours if they are having difficulty reading or understanding the materials presented in class. If you ever have any questions about anything, please just ask!

Assignments and grading:

  1. Readings:
    • The reading assignments should be done before you come to class. Many of the readings are challenging and take time and effort to understand. They need to be read 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 any challenging material. Your books should show evidence that they have been read: underlining, highlighting, marks, etc.
    • Bring your books and assigned readings to class since we will refer to them often. If you do not bring your materials and/or are not prepared for class, you may be asked to leave.
  1. Reading quizzes:
    • To help encourage careful reading and reflection on the readings – which will contribute to better discussion – there will be periodic, unannounced reading quizzes. If you have done the reading, the question(s) will be such that you should have no problem answering it. THERE WILL BE NO MAKE-UP QUESTIONS GIVEN. The only exception to this will be students who bring documentation from the Dean of Students requesting me to give a make-up question. In other words, if you come in too late or you miss a day do not ask for a make-up. (5 points each; 50 points total)
  1. 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: 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. Give your paper a real 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)


“The Division of Humanities & Social Sciences at Morehouue College endorses the highest standards and expectations of academic honesty and integrity. Plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Sanctions for violation of these standards include possible suspension or dismissal from the College. It is each student’s responsibility to be familiar with the expected codes of conduct as outlined in the College Catalogue and Student Handbook.”

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 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.), which you learned to do in Introductory English courses. If you would like additional sources to learn more about a topic, see the instructor.

  1. 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).

· No electronic devices can be used or accessed during tests, nor can you have any books, bags, notes or hats near your desk: all such materials must be left at the front of the room. You are not permitted to leave the classroom and return to keep working on the test, so please plan accordingly (e.g., visit the restroom before the test).

  1. 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. See above for the policies and grading. Students with perfect attendance will receive 10 extra points added to their overall score.

  1. 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 3 page detailed 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 / 230;

Morehouse College is committed to equal opportunity in education for all students, including those with documented disabilities. Students with disabilities or those who suspect they have a disability must register with the Office of Disability Services (“ODS”) in order to receive accommodations. Students currently registered with the ODS are required to present their Disability Services Accommodation Letter to faculty immediately upon receiving the accommodation. If you have any questions, contact the Office of Disability Services, 104 Sale Hall Annex, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Dr. S.W., Atlanta, GA 30314, (404) 215-2636, FAX: (404) 215-2749.

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 . If you come to class, you should know exactly what the current assignments are.

First reading assignments:

Rachels, RTD: Ch. 2, “Some Basic Points About Arguments” Due Monday, 8/28

Rachels, RTD: Ch.1 "A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy" Due Wednesday, 8/30

First writing 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 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.

Note: A syllabus is not a contract, but rather a guide to course procedures. The instructor reserves the right to alter the course requirements and/or assignments based on new materials, class discussions, or other legitimate pedagogical objectives.

Philosophy 302 Course Outline

Here is the order of topics and readings. Exact dates and assignments will be announced in class and on the blog/webpage/email. We will likely not get to all of this material, but we will do our best: we are mainly looking to improve our quality of understanding and ability to argue, so we might sacrifice the quantity of readings to get that. *** = topics of special emphasis

"Some Basic Points about Arguments," James Rachels (TRTTD)

“A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy: James Rachels (TRTTD)

Ch. 1, "What is Morality?" (Elements)

"Will Cloning Harm People?" Gregory E. Pence (TRTTD)

Ch.2, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (Elements)

Online: “What’s Culture Got to Do With It? Excising the Harmful Tradition of Female Circumcision” Harvard Law Review

Ch. 3, "Subjectivism in Ethics" (Elements) ***
"Is Homosexuality Unnatural?" Burton M. Leiser (TRTTD) ***

Ch. 4, "Does Morality Depend on Religion?" (Elements)

Online: “The Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” Mary Anne Warren
"Why Abortion Is Immoral," Don Marquis (TRTTD)
"A Defense of Abortion," Judith Jarvis Thomson (TRTTD)

Online: “Patterns of Resistance,” Tom Regan: addresses arguments from American history in defense of slavery, against women’s rights, against homosexuality and other topics.

Ch. 5, "Ethical Egoism" (Elements) ***
"9/11 and Starvation," Mylan Engel, Jr. (TRTTD) ***
"The Singer Solution to World Poverty," Peter Singer (TRTTD) ***

"Is Racial Discrimination Arbitrary?" Peter Singer (TRTTD) ***

Ch. 6, "The Utilitarian Approach" (Elements)
"Utilitarianism," John Stuart Mill (TRTTD)

"The Morality of Euthanasia," James Rachels (TRTTD)

Online: “Active and Passive Euthanasia,” James Rachels
"Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life?" Richard Doerflinger (TRTTD)

"All Animals Are Equal," Peter Singer (TRTTD) ***
"Do Animals Have Rights?" Tibor R. Machan (TRTTD) ***

Online/handout: “Reasonable Humans and Animals,” John Simmons ***

Ch. 7, "The Debate over Utilitarianism" (Elements)

"Utilitarianism and Integrity," Bernard Williams (TRTTD)
"The Experience Machine," Robert Nozick (TRTTD)

"The Immorality of SUVs and Trucks," Douglas Husak (TRTTD)

Ch. 8, "Are There Absolute Moral Rules?" (Elements)

"The Categorical Imperative," Immanuel Kant (TRTTD)

"The Ethics of War and Peace," Douglas P. Lackey (TRTTD)
"America's Unjust Drug War," Michael Huemer (TRTTD)

Ch. 9, "Kant and Respect for Persons" (Elements)
"In Defense of the Death Penalty," Ernest van den Haag (TRTTD) ***
"The Case against the Death Penalty," Hugo A. Bedau (TRTTD) ***

Ch. 10, "The Idea of a Social Contract" (Elements)
"The Social Contract," Thomas Hobbes (TRTTD)
"Letter from the Birmingham City Jail," Martin Luther King, Jr. (TRTTD) ***
"In Defense of Quotas," James Rachels (TRTTD) ***

Ch. 11, "Feminism and the Ethics of Care" (Elements)
"The Feminist Revelation," Christina Hoff Sommers (TRTTD)

Ch. 12, "The Ethics of Virtue" (Elements)

"The Virtues," Aristotle (TRTTD)
"Preserving the Environment," Thomas E. Hill, Jr. (TRTTD) ***

Ch. 13, "What Would a Satisfactory Moral Theory Be Like?" (Elements)