Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Syllabus Spring 2009

Please download this document here:

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, Spring 2009


Students are responsible for understanding all the information and policies presented in this syllabus. Students will be referred to this document when their questions are answered here.

12 - 12:50, MWF, Sale Hall, Room 105: Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 41186 - HPHI 302G - 01

1 - 1:50, MWF, Sale Hall, Room TBA; Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 41187 - HPHI 302G - 02

Instructor: Dr. Nathan Nobis (

Office: Philosophy & Religion Department, Sale Hall 113

Office Hours: 11-12; 1-1:30 MWF and by appointment (but please let him know if you want to meet)

Course blog:


Email announcement group:

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. Students will learn some basic logic and critical thinking skills and apply them to theoretical and practical questions about morality. 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 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 our critical thinking skills to moral issues such as female genital mutilation, homosexuality, abortion, famine and absolute poverty, racism, sexism, and speciesism, vegetarianism and the treatment of animals, euthanasia and assisted suicide, capital punishment, affirmative action, civil disobedience, and environmentalism, among others.

Four Required course materials:

1. Plagiarism has been a problem in this course. You must purchase a pass-code for the Thompson Turnitin web-based anti-plagiarism system at the bookstore: The course code is 2571740 and the password is ethics, which you will need to register your account. If the bookstore runs out of these you need to ask them to order more so that you can submit your papers: your papers will be graded only if they are submitted through this system and submitted in class in hardcopy.

Technical support:

Unfortunately some of the pin codes for the Turnitin are invalid. If you find that your pin code is not registering properly (the password is ethics and the course codes are above), they should contact Thompson / Cencage learning. You should go to the following web site and choose to Chat and/or send an e-mail to and

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 in the Search:

Turnitin? User Guide 1-Semester Printed Access Card, 1st Edition

© 2006
ISBN/ISSN 1-4130-3018-1
ISBN-13 978-1-4130-3018-1
List Price: $12.95, Your Price: $11.66

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

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

4. Lewis Vaughn, Writing Philosophy: A Students Guide to Writing Philosophy Essays [WP].

Written Requirements / Assignments:

1. “OPS” (Outline, Paraphrase, &/or Summarize) writing assignments:

· The absolute most important thing you can do to succeed in this class is to do the reading and do the reading well. To encourage you do to do, you will be required to write 1-3 page outlines, paraphrases &/or summaries of many of the readings or selections of them. Vaughn’s Writing Philosophy, Ch. 1 provides instruction on how to do this. What most important for these assignments is that you (a) identify the author’s main conclusions, and (b) explain the reasons he or she gives in favor of these conclusions and (c) explain whether these reasons are a valid and sound argument for that conclusion or not. Merely copying the writing’s Introduction by Rachels will result in a zero for the assignment. (3 points each; 12 assignments; 36 points total)

  1. Five 4-6 page Essays (all except the first are argumentative essays, where a moral conclusion is defended, objections are responded to, etc.): (10 points each; 50 points total)
  1. Two Exams, Midterm and Final:
    • All of lecture, discussion and reading content is fair game. Study guides will be available online with possible questions for each exam to help focus your studying. Exams will mostly be short answer and short essay questions. (40 points each; 80 points total).
  1. Extra Credit Opportunities:
    • There will likely be 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. These are due, in class, within one week of the event, and won’t be accepted past then. These events will only be announced by the email group.
    • An extra credit book report assignment is here:


Nearly always come to class. Be on time. Do the reading, carefully. Be prepared. Take the time to do a very good job on everything we do. Bring your materials, always. Contribute to class discussion. Ask questions. Do not plagiarize or cheat in any way: if you do, you will fail the course immediately. Have fun, learn a lot, and grow to become a more ethically engaged person!

First assignments:

Readings should be done in advance for the day assigned. 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. Once enrollment settles, I will provide a calendar of assignments as well.

  • Get the books and needed materials.
  • With the Turnitin card you purchased at the bookstore, set up your account online. If you do not do this on time, you might get a zero on your first paper.
  • Sign up for the email announcement group here:

First reading assignments; dates TBA:

o Vaughn, Ch.1, “How To Read Philosophy”

o Vaughn, Ch.2, “How To Read An Argument

o Rachels, RTD: Ch. 2, “Some Basic Points About Arguments,” available here if you don’t yet have the books:

o Vaughn, Ch. 5, “Avoiding Fallacious Reasoning”

o Rachels, RTD: Ch.1 “A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy,” available here if you don’t yet have the books: Writing assignment: which theory or theories are best and why? 2 pages

o Ch. 1, "What is Morality?" (EMP) OPS Writing Assignment on the arguments in favor of killing Teresa, separating the twins and killing Tracey (!!)

o "Will Cloning Harm People?" Gregory E. Pence (RTD) OPS Writing Assignment

Further reading and writing assignments, and their dates, will be announced in class, on blog, and email group!

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.