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Plato, The Republic
“Happiness is an activity in accordance with virtue.” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
“These young people unhappily fail to understand that the sacrifice of one’s life is, in many cases, the easiest of all sacrifices. They fail to understand that to sacrifice five or six years of their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply ten-fold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set before them as their goal, is utterly beyond the strength of many of them.” Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate, John 18:38
Phil 111 Division 09 Section 01 (Lec 03 - 01) 10:30-11:20 BRNG 1268 Instructor: John A. Houston Office: Pierce 183 Office Phone: 494-0702 Office Hours: 11:30-12:30 Monday (or by appointment) Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org Introduction to Ethics Overview: This is a course in ethical theory. We shall be critically examining ethical theories of Western Philosophy. Major authors studied include (but are not limited to) Aristotle, Mill, and Kant. Thus, in an attempt to lay a foundation for adjudicating moral disputes, we shall be exploring virtue based theory, deontological theory, and consequentialist theory. These respective theories will be applied to dealing with ethical problems that in our lifetimes we all shall inevitably encounter. Questions we shall visit in the unfolding of the course will include: What constitutes the good life? Must ethics have a religious foundation? Are there incontrovertible moral truths applying to all peoples at all times regardless of cultural or historical context? Is the basis for ethical theory ultimately grounded in self interest? Does one’s repeated behavior fix one’s character irreversibly or can people ‘change’? Readings will include texts both historical and contemporary. Texts: Moral Philosophy: Selected Readings (2006) ISBN 0-495-07925-1 ed. George Sher, Wadsworth (MP) Nicomachean Ethics, 2 ed. (1999) ISBN 0-87220-4642 Aristotle (Irwin) Hacket (NE) A Christmas Carol (1991) ISBN 0486268659 Charles Dickens, Dover (CC) Course Packet with Selected Readings: To be obtained at the Copy Mat (CP) Classroom Etiquette 1. I enjoy intensity in the classroom, but it must be tempered with respect for your colleagues. Certain discussions in this class are bound to provoke intense responses from students. This is good. However, we must learn to disagree without being disagreeable. 2. Turn off all electronic devices upon entering the room. Should you answer your cell phone you will be dismissed.
3. Do not sleep in class. If you do I will stop and address the problem. This is distracting to both me and your colleagues. 4. Do not carry on conversations or engage in overtly distracting behavior (reading newspapers, etc.) while I am lecturing. Should you do so I will ask you to leave. 5. Make every effort to be punctual. Attendance Note that attendance and participation constitutes 15% of your final grade. It is in your best interest to attend class, as discussions and lectures shall contain crucial information that will be necessary for your success on exams and written responses. You are allowed two unexcused absences from class. Each unexcused absence following this will lower your grade. The greater the number, the harder it will hit you. Whether an absence is excused will be at the discretion of the instructor (me). In cases of illness, written documentation from a physician will be required. Finally, no make-up examinations will be administered unless the instructor has been notified in advance or some form of documentation is provided to excuse the missing of the exam. Nota Bene: Completion of all written work is a necessary condition for passing this course. General Expectations READ! If you fail to read you will in all likelihood fail the course. We will be engaging primary texts that require more than a mere perusing. Because of the density and difficulty of the material, I have deliberately shortened the reading assignments to allow you to digest their contents. Adequate preparation for class will require slow, careful, and deliberate reading of the material assigned. I expect you to come to class prepared to discuss the material in an intelligent and informed manner. Again, READ! Grading Policy 1. There will be three exams, all three weighted equally. (Note: the final exam will not be cumulative.) Expect the exam content to be primarily essay question(s), though a few short answer questions, multiple-choice questions, and true/false questions are a possibility. Style and organization do count when answering and essay exam, as they reflect your preparedness to address the material. However, due to the time-constraints involved while writing an essay in-class, grammar and spelling will not be a factor determining your grade. Good arguments are more crucial than polished prose. 2. There will be two short written responses required from every student. 3. Attendance does affect your grade. (See section on Attendance). 4. Weight by percentage points of each assignment: First Exam: 20% Second Exam: 20% Final Exam: 20% Two written responses each worth 12.5 % of your final grade shall be handed in as scheduled on the syllabus. Attendance: 15%
Total: 100% Written Responses: These should reflect knowledge of the material. You are required to take a philosophical position pertaining to the question posed. Do not merely assert your position; argue for it. Be pithy and concise: no filler, no fluff. Edit your work before handing it in. Note: I am available during office hours and by appointment. I encourage you to come and see me if you find yourself struggling or in need of clarification of the material. Class Schedule: (MWF) Objectivity August 20: Introduction to the Course – How to approach this course. 22: Elementary Concepts of Logic [Handout] (Validity, Soundness) 24: Cultural Relativism: MP 194-204 (See notes) 27: Cultural Relativism: MP 194-204 Concluded (See notes) 29: Ethical Objectivism: Pojman CP#1 38-52 (Prep notes) 31: Ethical Objectivism: Pojman cont’d CP#1 38-52 (Prep notes)
1st Written Response Due: Is Cultural Relativism Philosophically Defensible? Explain.
03: Labor Day Holiday – No Class 05: Ethical Egoism: Plato’s Ring of Gyges MP 15-23 (Prep notes; don’t confuse with psychological egoism. See the distinction in Feinberg p. 5, middle) 07: Egoism: Feinberg MP 4-14 (See notes) 10: Emotivism: Ayer MP 120-128 (See notes) 12: Emotivism: Rachels’ “Subjectivism in Ethics” CP#2 37-50 (Prep notes) Religion & Ethics 14: Religion and Ethics: Introduction to Euthyphro MP 166-179 (Prep notes in relation to latter parts of Religion & Ethics notes. Go slow.) 17: Religion and Ethics: Euthyphro concluded MP 166-179 (Prep notes, use Religion & Ethics notes as useful) 19: Begin Quinn: God and Morality CP#3 423-441 (Prep notes, use TV notes as applicable.) 21: Conclude Quinn: God and Morality CP#3 423-441 (Prep notes, use TV notes as applicable.) 24: Religion and Ethics: Rachels’ “Does Morality Depend on Religion?” CP#4 52-67 26: Review for Exam 28: ***Exam 1
Classical Theories Part 1: Consequentialist & Deontological Ethics (Mill & Kant) October 01: Mill: The Greatest Happiness Principle: MP 298-307 (See notes) 03: Mill: Proving the Principle of Utility: MP 308-312 (See notes) 05: Mill cont’d; Nozick MP 612-614 (See notes, Mill & Nozick) 08: Fall Break: Holiday – No Class 10: Hare: What is Wrong with Slavery MP 313-326 (See notes) 12: Rawls: MP 348-352 (See notes) 15: Rachels’ “The Debate over Utilitarianism” CP#5 102-116 (Prep notes) 17: Deontology: Kant on the “Good Will” MP 385-389 (See notes) 19: Deontology: Kant on “Action from Duty” MP 389-392 (See notes; set up for Schiller paper.) 22: Deontology: Paper on the “Coldness Charge” (Kant vs. Schiller) CP#6 (Prep notes) 24: Deontology: Kant on the Moral Law (FUL) MP 392-399 (See notes, overlap) 26: Deontology: Kant on Persons and Regard for Humanity MP 399-405 (See notes, overlap) 29: Deontology: Main Points Revisited and Summarized. “Kant’s Moral Theory” CP#7 72-81 (Prep notes, and use final Kant notes in Kain Series as fitting). 31: Review for Exam: 02: ***Exam 2
Classical Theories Part 2: Virtue Ethics (Aristotle) 05: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- happiness NE 1-8 07: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- happiness and the human function NE 8-18 09: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- moral virtue NE 18-30 12: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- moral virtues NE 49-60 14: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- friendship NE 119-124, 148-153 16: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- friendship NE 127-129, 132-134, 140-141 19: Virtue Ethics: Aristotle- contemplation NE 162-167 21: Thanksgiving Break – No Class 23: Thanksgiving Break – No Class 26: Virtue Ethics: Aquinas on happiness CP#8 636-641 (Prep lecture, use 1st part of Aquinas notes as needed)
28: Virtue Ethics: Aquinas on virtue CP#9 (esp. the theological virtues) CP#9 59-62 ; 68-70 Final Written Response Due: Using your knowledge of what Aristotle and Aquinas contend, answer the following question: Is happiness attainable in this life for human beings? Explain utilizing distinctions contained in your reading. Determining Character: Formation, Fixation…Transformation? 30: Dickens Stave 1 (Prep notes) December 03: Dickens Stave 2 (Prep notes) 05: Dickens Stave 3 (Prep notes 07: Final Review ***Final Exam: Date/Time/Place TBA
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