Johns Hopkins University

Center for Talented Youth
Summer Program 2014

COURSE SYLLABUS

ETHICS
Session: I
Location: Carlisle (CAR)
Instructor: Dr. Thaddeus J. Kozinski
Teaching Assistant: Shaun Poust

A. Course Description and Objectives:

Regardless of our differing beliefs and values, we all want to be happy. But what is happiness? Is it
just getting what we want? What if what we want isn’t good? What is “good”? Is there a good?
How can we know what is really good and evil, right and wrong? Are there objective standards of
ethics by which we can accurately judge individuals or their actions, or is right and wrong, good
and evil, in the eye of the beholder?

Students address these issues by reflecting upon their commonsense intuitions about how we
ought to live our lives. They revisit their initial thoughts by applying analytical reasoning to their
own insights. In so doing, students investigate the debate between moral relativism, which denies
ethical distinctions such as right or wrong, and moral realism, which upholds them. They then
examine major attempts to develop coherent theories capable of guiding moral decisions. Among
these are views such as utilitarianism, in which moral choices are evaluated based upon their
consequences; approaches inspired by Kant’s claim that moral actions derive from a universal
principle of morality that is objective and rational; and virtue ethics, which focuses on the
cultivation of morally worthwhile traits in each individual.

Throughout the course, students investigate how different ethical theories affect judgments on
current ethical dilemmas such as capital punishment, animal rights, and war. As they wrestle with
ethical issues, students critique primary philosophical works, participate in discussions and
debates, and write analytical essays.

B. Course Goals: Moral and Intellectual Skills and Virtues

Students will:

o Explore and reflect upon the ways they reason about moral questions
o Learn the five major ethical systems and how to apply them to moral issues
o Improve their ability to express the reasons behind moral decisions
o Approach ethical disagreements in a way that is more likely to generate
thoughtful discussion and open-minded consideration of alternative views
o Understand and be able to critique cultural relativism.
o Be able to differentiate cultural norms, laws, and moral precepts.



C. Readings for the Course:

1) Moral Philosophy: A Reader, Louis Pojman
2) The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius


D. Course Requirements and Criteria Used for Evaluation:

You will each receive a narrative evaluation that will be mailed to you after the end of the session. This
will discuss your accomplishment in the course, including both the aspects in which you had the
greatest success and those in which you may have had to struggle a bit. The following are among the
most important criteria for purposes of evaluation:

● Class attendance – required.
● Active participation in all class activities, including discussions, debates, projects, and writing.
● Reading: You will be asked to read a large amount of material in this course. Reading will take
place both at various times during the daily class sessions and especially during the evening study
hall sessions. In fact, the evening sessions will usually be devoted entirely to reading material that
will be discussed in class the following day. It is understood that different people read at different
rates, but what is expected is that you will make good use of the time that is allotted for reading,
and will make a serious effort to get through as much of the material as possible while still
retaining understanding. There is usually a project on which to be working after the readings are
completed. It is more important that you read the regular assignment with understanding than to
rush through it in order to work on your project.
● Debate: There will be both spontaneous or unprepared debates, and one formal debate on an
assigned topic. Sufficient time will be set aside for you to prepare for the formal debate.
● Writing assignments: You will have three formal writing assignments on topics of your choosing,
one a philosophical dialogue, another a ethically themed work of fiction, and the last an academic
essay. Your writing requires no outside research, but should upon the readings we have done in
class and/or ideas brought up in discussions.
● In-class activities (Study Questions, Reflection Questions, Creative Writing Projects): You will often
be working with a partner or in a group in creative activities and reflective discussions, presenting
your results to the class as a group.

D. Academic Honesty

As CTY students, you are expected to uphold the high standards of academic integrity that are
embodied in the program’s Honor Code. Cheating on a test would clearly constitute academic
dishonesty. So would plagiarism, which is the handing in of any work that is not your own as if it was.
Having someone else complete writing assignments for you – or completing assignments for someone
else – are forms of academic dishonesty. Any instances of academic dishonesty will be taken very
seriously and will be brought to the immediate attention of the CTY administration.



Day 1: What is Ethics? Wherefore Ought?
When Topic What
Monday Morning (8:45-
11:45)

What is Ethics or Moral
Philosophy?
1) Icebreaker: Matchmaking faces and quotes
(8:45-9:15)
2) “What’s Wrong with my Teacher?” (9:15-9:45)
3) Pre-assessment test (10:00-10:45).
4) Lecture and Discussion, “What is Ethics?” and
code signing (10:45-11:30):
5) Boethius, Book I. (11:30-12:00)
Afternoon (1-3) Origin and nature of moral values



1) Video: “Where do values come from?” (1-
1:30)
2) Read aloud, Kreeft, “The Data” (1:40-2:30)
3) Activity: “Moral Evidence? (2:30-3:00)

Evening (7-9) Introduction to Moral
Philosophy: Plato
Reading: Pojman, pp. ix-xiv, 1-18



Day 2: Evidence of Moral Reality, Ethics in Fiction

When Topic What
Morning
(8:45-11:45)
1) Dialectical argument: Justice
and Injustice

2) Phenomena and
interpretation: Evidence for
moral reality
1) Lecture/Discussion: Question Bank, Pojman, Intro and Plato’
Republic (845-945): How does Plato get us to think about
Justice?
2) Boethius, Book I: (945-1015)
3)Writing Activity: “What is your ethical philosophy?” (10:30-
11:00)
4) Read aloud, “What is Happiness?—Pharrell vs Aristotle!”
(11:00-11:45)
Afternoon (1-
3)
Moral Philosophy in fiction. 1) Read aloud and discuss: “Goblin and the Grocer” (1:00-
1:30):
2) Read aloud/Discussion, “Emperor’s New Clothes” (1:30-
2:00)
3) Write ethical stories, (2:10-3:00)

Evening
(7-9)
Ethical Stories, Moral Relatvism
vs. Moral Objectivism
1) Reading, Pojman, pp. 19-32
2) Finish ethical stories.




Day 3: Moral Relativism vs. Moral Absolutism

When Topic What
Morning
(8:45-11:45)
The problem of cultural
relativism
1) Lecture and Discussion: Pojman, Herodotus and Aquinas (8:45-9:45)
2) Activity: Small groups, “Are there any moral absolutes?” (9:45-10:30)
3) Work on stories

Afternoon (1-
3)
1) Boethius, Book I (1:00-1:45pm)
2) Finish stories (1:55-3pm)
Evening (7-9) 1)Reading, Benedict in Pojman, 33-38
2) Kreeft, “History of Moral Relativism”, “Argument for Absolutism”


Day 4: Relativism vs. Absolutism, Ethics and Egoism

When Topic What
Morning
(8:45-11:45)
Finish Moral Relativism vs. Moral
Objectivism
1) Lecture/Discussion, (8:45-9:45).
2) Ethical Dialogue, Kozinski (9:45-10:15)
3) Debate video, moral relativism vs moral absolutism
(10:30-11:45).
Afternoon (1-
3)
Why Should I be Moral?
Writing a philosophical dialogue
1)Read together, Plato, Ring of Gyges, Pojman, pp. 60-68
(1:00-2:00)
2) Introduction to philosophical dialogue and work on
dialogues (2:10-3:00)
Evening (7-9) Hobbes on Egoism, Rachel’s Critique of
Egoism
1)Reading, Pojman, pp. 60-78, pp. 86-93


Day 5: Ethical Egoism, What is the Good?
When Topic What
Morning
(9-12)
Moral Egoism 1) Finish Dialogues (8:45-9:45)
2) Lecture and Discussion, Hobbes and Rachels (9:45-10:30)
3) Activity, Egoism game: (10:45-11:15)
4) Boethius, Book II (11:15-12:00)
Afternoon
(1-3)
What is the Good? 1) Lecture/Discussion, “What is the Good?” (1-1:45)
2) Activity: (2:00-3:00) Groups present their ideal society
based upon full implementation of their idea of the Good
and then class discussion
Sunday
Evening
(7-9)
The Good Pojman, pp. 111-130

Day 6: The Good, Value Pluralism

When Topic What
Morning
(8:45-11:45)
Plato vs. Nietzsche 1) Lecture/Discussion: Plato, Bentham, Nietzsche (8:45-9:30)
2) Movie, discussion, The Sunset Limited (9:30:-11:45)
Afternoon (1-
3)
Existentialist Ethics 1) Academic Essay Assignment (1:00-3:00)
Evening (7-9) Ethical Pluralism, MacIntyre Reading, MacIntyre, After Virtue, selections
Pojman, (143-147)
Finish essays

Day 7: Value Pluralism, Ethical Theory

When Topic What
Morning (8:45-
11:45)
The good and value
pluralism, emotivism


1)Discussion, MacIntyre (9-10:00)
2)Boethius, Book III (10:15-11:00)
2) Work on academic essay (11:00-12)
Afternoon (1-3) Ethical systems


1) Lecture, Ethical systems, (1:00-2:00)
2) Activity (2:15-3pm)

There are two primary concerns for ethicists: (1) of all the
systems proposed, are any of them perfect? Do any of the boxes
light up the proper light for every action? (2) If we open up the
box, what is the mechanism inside? How do we go about
determining the moral status of an action?

Divide students up into pairs. Present them with the following
situation:

Jennifer wanted to go to the prom with Roberto, but he was
going out with Samantha for several weeks and during that
time asked her. After weeks of not having a prom date,
when Jim asked Jennifer, she agreed, but never wanted to
go with him. Jim is extremely enthusiastic about it, much
more so than Jennifer, who finds Jim uncomfortable to be
around, and this difference will likely cause tension
between them all night. Additionally, Jennifer knows that
Robin, who is still dateless, was really hoping that Jim
would ask her, but Jim is lukewarm about that prospect.
Things between Jennifer and Robin have been chilly
because she agreed to go with Jim knowing that Robin
wanted to. Today, Roberto and Samantha have broken up
and are not going to the prom together. Roberto has texted
Jennifer and asked her to go with him. What should
Jennifer do?

Ask each pair to figure out what is the morally proper action for
Jennifer in the situation and to figure out what part of the context
they looked to when making this decision.

Reassemble the class and have each group report out, keeping
track of the reason why Jennifer should have done what they
prescribe. Ask the class if these reasons hold universally. Is there
ever a situation in which the morally correct thing to do would be
to refuse to follow the reason given, for example, for those who
say that she made an agreement or contract, is there ever a case in
which the morally necessary thing to do is to break a contract, for
those who say that the overall consequences of ditching Jim and
going with Roberto will be better for everyone, ask whether the
ends always justify the means or are there cases where the right
thing doesn't bring the most pleasure. For those who say that she
should concoct some story that would excuse her from going with
Jim to save his feelings and her friendship, ask whether there are
times when one has to turn away from what would be best for
people you care about to do the right thing.


Evening (7-9) Virtue Ethics 1) Reading, Pojman, (299-315)
2) Work on academic essay






Day 8: Virtue Ethics
When Topic What
Morning
(9-12)
Aristotle, Virtue Ethics

1) Lecture/Discuss, Pojman (9-10)
2) Activity, “What are CTY’s Required Virtues?” (10:15-1100)
3) Boethius, Book III
Afternoon
(1-3)
Academic Essay

Debate
1) Finish Academic Essay (1-2:00)
2) Video, Aristotle and My Little Pony, (2:15-2:30)
3) Boethius, Book IV (2:30-3:00)
Evening
(7-9)
Kant, Deontological
ethics
Pojman, 216-237



Day 9: Kantian Ethics
When Topic What
Morning
(9-12)
Kant 1) Lecture/discussion, Kant, (9-10)
2) Activity, “What would Kant/Aristotle do?” (10:15-11:15)
3) Boethius, Book IV (11:15-12)
Pair students up and ask them to consider the following
situations. Ask them to apply the second version of the
Categorical Imperative and determine what would be the
operative moral law. What would Kant say to do? What would
Aristotle say to do? Which gives the better reason?

1. A friend is very excited about a new haircut that looks
horrible on him/her. Your friend asks you what you think of it.
What do you say? Would it be any different if it was an outfit
that the friend was trying on, but had not yet bought?

2. A friend has just bought a CD and after listening to it, you
love it. Your friend lends it to you. Is it o.k. to put it on your
iPod?

3. A friend asks you to look over his college essay. You are
very busy with your own work and don't have the time to do a
good job. Should you agree to do it?

4. You forgot to do the reading for philosophy class and
have time over lunch. You realize that you've forgotten your
book, but see a friend's copy and you know that he will not be
using it before class because he will be in class the entire time.
He will not be around to ask if you could borrow it and you will
get it back to him in class. Do you borrow the book?

5. You are approached by a homeless person and asked for
money. The person says that he needs it for a cup of coffee. You
doubt that it will really be spent for coffee, do you give him the
money?
Afternoon
(1-3)
Debate 1) Debate Topics and Work (1-2:15)
2) Boethius, Book IV (2:15-3pm)
Evening
(7-9)
Utilitarianism 1) Pojman, (156-163)
2) Work on Debates

Day 10: Utilitarianism
When Topic What
Morning (8:45-
11:45)
Utilitarianism 1)Lecture/Discussion (9-10:15)
2) Complete Debate Prep (10:30-11:30)
3) Debate 1
Afternoon (1-3) Debates Debates 2, 3, and 4

Evening (7-9) Ancient vs. Modern Ethics MacIntyre, “Why the Enlightenment had to Fail”

Day 11: Religious vs. Secular Ethics
When Topic
Morning
(9-12)
MacIntyre on Enlightenment

Morality and Religion
1) Lecture/Discussion, MacIntyre (9-10:15)
2) Read Euthyphro Selection, Pojman (10:30-11:15)
3) Boethius, Book V (11:15-12)
Afternoon
(1-3)
Ethical Role Playing 1) Lecture, Five Ethical Theories (1:00-1:45)
2) Ethics Skits (2:00-3:00)

Divide the class into groups that have at least five members.
Randomly assign groups to topics. Give them at least 30
minutes to write and practice skits based on their ethical
situation. Each group must have one character present a
case from each of the ethical systems. Have each group
present. After each presentation, have those watching try to
identify which character was utilizing which system. Once
all of the systems have been correctly identified, ask the
class if any of the cases could have been made more
strongly with that system. Once the strongest case from
each system has been presented, ask the class which one
seems the best argument in the context.

Case 1 The Trial of Robin Hood

Robin Hood is being tried in a court of morality for theft.
Friar Tuck, Robin Hood’s friend and a member of the
clergy, and one of the poor villagers who received the
money and was thereby able to pay his high taxes to the evil
and greedy Prince John and thereby remain out of jail
testify on his behalf. The sheriff of Nottingham and one of
the wealthy people he robbed testify against him.

Case 2 Thanksgiving Dinner with John Brown’s
Family

John Brown hatched an idea that he thought might end
slavery. He and his sons would raid the armory at Harpers
Ferry, West Virginia, riding off with a large amount of
military hardware. They would ride south until they
reached the first plantation they could find. They would
arm the slaves and help them over throw their masters.
They would then take those slaves with them to the next
plantation, arm those slaves, and so on and so on until their
ever increasing army of liberated slaves freed all of the
other slaves. It is Thanksgiving and the whole Brown
family is together. John tells them of his plan. One son is
all for it. His wife is against it. His mother-in-law likes it.
His father-in-law hates it.

Case 3 What Would You Do? Ask Thing One and
Thing Two
At the end of The Cat in the Hat, a brother and sister, whose
house was just destroyed and then miraculously put back
together by the Cat in the Hat, watch as their mother walks
in and asks them what they did and if they had any fun? All
of the activities in the house clearly violated the rules the
mother have set. But they did not participate in them
willingly. If they told her what happened and she believed
them, she would be horrified and most likely not believe
that they took no part in the festivities. But, given that the
house is back to normal, she would most likely not believe
them and thereby think they are lying to her, something she
greatly frowns upon, something that would get them into
deep trouble. The mother asks them and then steps into the
next room before receiving an answer giving the brother,
the sister, the Cat in the Hat, Thing One, and Thing Two to
debate what they should tell her.

Case 4 Survivor Gone Wrong

It is the nineteenth season of Survivor, this time it’s
Survivor: Antarctica. In a tragic turn of events, the director
and entire film crew have fallen to their deaths down a
crevasse leaving no one alive but the contestants with no
way of contacting the outside world. It is getting dark and
cold. There are five of them and only one parka which is
owned by one of the contestants, a normal guy from
Chicago. It cannot be shared and only the person wearing
the parka will survive. One of the other contestants is an
Olympic biathlete, but is single with no family. Another is
a mother of three young children. A third is a research
scientist who is working on curing cancer. A fourth is the
Pope. Who gets the jacket?

Case 5 Crime, Yes, but Punishment?
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is poor and starving. His
best friend is Marmeladov, a drunk who wasted all of his
own family’s money. Alyona Ivanovna is a loan shark and
pawn broker who takes advantage of the poor for her own
enrichment. She is nasty, heartless, and causes immense
suffering among those who are already suffering.
Rashkolnikov’s sister is about to get married to someone
she does not like, much less love, but is wealthy and would
support the family. She and their mother are coming to
town with the fiancé. Rashkolnikov realizes that if he kills
Ivanova and takes her money, that he could support the
family without his sister having to marry and would rid the
community of a horrible person who only harms the
community. They are all in his apartment when he tells
them of his plan.

Evening
(7-9)
Morality and Religion Pojman, 356-360; Kreeft, “Philosophical Assumptions of
Absolutism”, “The Cause and Cure of Relativism”






Day 12:
When Topic Is God Necessary for Morality?
Morning
(8:45-11:45)
God and Morality 1) Debate Video, “Is God Necessary for Morality” (9:00-11:00)
2) Boethius, Book V (11:15-12:00)
Afternoon
(1-3)
God and Morality 1) Writing exercise: “Foundations for Morality: My View” (1-2)
2) Discussion of student writings, (2:15-3:00)
Evening (7-
9)
God and Morality Reading, Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Day 13: Applied Ethics
When Topic What
Morning
(9-12)
Kierkegaard

Applied Ethics
1) Lecture/Discussion (9-10)
2) Analyzing ethical opinion pieces philosophically (10:15-11:15)
3) Boethius, Book V

Afternoon
(1-3)
Applied Ethics:
Abortion
Video Debate, Abortion
Evening
(7-9)
Applied Ethics: War Pojman, 444-462


Day 14: Applied Ethics
When Topic What
Morning
(9-12)
Ethics of War


1) Discussion/Lecture (9-10:15)
2) Post Assessment test (10:30-11:15)
3) Spontaneous Debates
Afternoon
(1-3)
Reflecting on Ethics 1) Activity: Student presentations of their view of the foundations of
morality

Day 15: Meaning of Life

When Topic What
Morning Meaning of Life 1) SPEs
2) Concluding reflections
3) Ethics Jeopardy

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful