Moral Philosophy (Fall 2007) - Syllabus
Philosophy 3226 | 076669 | R 2:40-5:30 PM | Anderson Hall 706
Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts | email@example.com | office hours: 714 Anderson Hall, 11:30-12:30 T,R
The goal of this course is to introduce students to major works in moral philosophy. Rather than focus on classic works exclusively, we will engage with classic texts by figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill by reading primary sources and contemporary articles engaged with the problems presented in the classic text. Our aim is to understand the historical roots of the major issues discussed in contemporary ethical theory.
Students will gain an understanding of utilitarian, deontological, and virtue-based normative ethical theories. In addition, moving beyond the traditional scope of similar courses, we will explore issues in meta-ethics, axiology, and moral psychology.
Questions that will be addressed include: What makes an action morally right? Why should I be moral? Can morality be grounded in religion? Do moral claims state facts and if so can they be true? What constitutes a good life?
There is just one required text for this course:
Russ Shafer-Landau, editor. Ethical Theory: An Anthology (Blackwell; 2007).
There will be three forms of coursework: weekly quizzes, two papers, and two examinations. Each week I will give a short quiz at the beginning of class that will require one or two sentence answers. There will be one short paper of less than 3 pages and a longer 7 page paper on assigned topics. There will also be a mid-term and a comprehensive final examination.
Quizzes (10%) + Paper 1 (15%) + Paper 2 (25%) + mid term (20%) + final (30%).
Plagiarism--claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own--will not be tolerated. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade. I will also write a letter will to the dean requesting that you be expelled from the the university.
This course is open to all students who meet the academic requirements for participation. Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Contact Disability Resources and Services at 215-204-1280 in 100 Ritter Annex to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.
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Week 1 8/30 Introduction to Ethics
Topic I (Value)
Week 2 (9/6) Hedonism
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 281-285); John Stuart Mill, “Hedonism”; Robert Nozick, “The Experience Machine”
Week 3 (9/13) Hedonism and Desire Satisfaction
Readings: Fred Feldman, “The Good Life: A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism”; James Griffin, “The Informed Desire Account”
Week 4 9/20 Lives and Worlds
Readings: Derek Parfit, “What Makes Someone's Life Go Best”; W. D. Ross, “What Things are Good?”
Topic II (Why be Moral?)
Week 5 9/27 Egoism
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 143-146); Plato, “The Immoralist's Challenge”; Lester Hunt, “Flourishing Egoism”
Paper #1 Due.
Week 6 10/4 Moral Rationalism
Readings: Philippa Foot, “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives”; Russ Shafer- Landau, “Moral Rationalism”
Topic III (Status of Morality)
Week 7 10/11 Anti-Realism
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 3-8); David Hume, “Of the Influencing Motives of the Will” and “Moral Distinctions Not Derived from Reason”; J. L. Mackie, “The Subjectivity of Values”.
Week 8 10/18 Realism
Readings: Russ Shafer-Landau, “Ethics as Philosophy: A Defense of Ethical Nonnaturalism”; Michael Smith, “Realism”
Topic IV (Ethics and Religion)
Week 9 10/25
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 237-240); Plato, “Euthyphro”; Robert Adams, “A New Divine Command Theory”; Erik Wielenberg, "God and Morality"
Topic V (Normative Ethical Theories)
Week 10 11/1 Consequentialism
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 453-457); John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism; R. M. Hare, “What is Wrong with Slavery?”
Week 11 11/8 Rule Consequentialism
Readings: J. J. C. Smart, “Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism”; Brad Hooker, “Rule-Consequentialism”
Paper #2 Due
Week 12 11/15 Deontology
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 521-525); Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals; Judith Jarvis Thomson, “Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem”
Week 13 11/22 (NO CLASS: Thanksgiving 11/22)
Week 14 11/29 Virtue Ethics
Readings: “Introduction” (pp. 663-667); Aristotle, “The Nature of Virtue”; Martha Nussbaum, “Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach”
End of Classes
Week 15 12/6 (NO CLASS: Last day of classes W 12/5)
Week 16 12/10-14 (Final exam week)