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Ethics & Human Values

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Ethics and Human Values

Materials for This Course Available in the Bookstore

J. S. Mill Utilitarianism (Hackett)
Immanuel Kant Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (Hackett)
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics (Chicago)

These are all relatively inexpensive paperbacks. So acquire them immediately.
There will also be a few brief handouts.

Course Description
The subject of ethics is the pursuit of the good. For animals, the good is given in instinct; however, with the advent of reason we have the capacity of the human being to choose that which is not given by nature. This means that it is unclear that our immediate impulses guide us correctly; there must be a standard to be argued for, since the immediately given is not satisfactory. It is in ethical reality that the degree of difference of intelligence between man and the animals is perhaps equivalent to a difference in kind. Because of this, the human good, as opposed to the natural good, is inherently questionable. In this class, we will be looking at how it is that philosophers have concerned themselves with this question. We will look at 3 of major different ways in which the question the ultimate ethical principle has been understood; the utilitarian, the “deontological” and the “eudaimonistic”, by considering a few of the primary texts that deal with these.

Requirements, Expectations, Grading
You are expected to attend and attentively participate in every class period. The grade for this course will consist of two exams, midterm and final (25 % each) , weekly response papers (40%), and class attendance and participation (10%).

You should expect to spend at least 6 hours each and every week studying and preparing for this class, in addition to your regular attendance. Your professor is of the belief that the study of the liberal arts and the sciences, or true education, should be treated as a full time job, and classwork your first priority. If you believe that you will pass this course without rigorous preparation, participation and good attendance, let me assure you that you are incorrect. I will largely be expecting that we will be learning in this class together. This means that each student must come to class knowing what the brief readings for the course say, so that discussion that ensues from my questions will be of use to us. This requires rigorous preparation. The best way to prepare is to read the text multiple times. The first time through, you should read without taking notes, to get a sense for the text as a whole. The second time through you should then take detailed notes. The third time through, you should consult your notes as you read, making modifications as necessary. Notes should by this time include questions to raise for things that you do not understand. I also encourage you to read the text after our class discussions, letting what we have discussed and any notes that you may have taken inform your understanding of the texts.

Learning requires a certain code of conduct in the classroom. First, is promptness. You are expected to be on time for class. I will begin class on time, and the door will close. Anyone not in class when the door has closed will be considered tardy. I will re-open the door briefly at about 15 minutes after class has begun to let in any latecomers. The door will then close a second time, and will not re-open until class has finished. Anyone coming after this time will simply be considered absent. We have work to do in class, work that will not tolerate the interruptions of constant entering and exiting the classroom.

Also, once you are in class, you are in class. This means that I will not tolerate interruptions unrelated to coursework. For example, exiting the classroom to take a phone call or use the restroom. Such will be considered absence from class, as you have time outside of class to do such things. Leaving the classroom early will also be considered absence from class. I will ask you at the beginning of each class to turn to OFF and put away all cellphones or smartphones in your pocket, purse, briefcase or backpack. The unauthorized use of any such during class time will be considered absence from class. Needless to say, no electronic devices will be permitted during examinations, and anyone caught using one will be assumed to be cheating, and receive a grade of zero. As will any other method of cheating.

It goes without saying that disruptive conversations and actions unrelated to classroom discussion will not be tolerated.

For the first time this term, I will be collecting homework through CANVAS. On the first day of class, I will demonstrate how students may find and enter homework assignments into CANVAS, as well as how they may find the grades for them once they are graded. The gradebook function in CANVAS will be useful for keeping track of homework grades, but I will not be entering any other grade information (for exams and participation) into CANVAS.

Absences will be excused only by written excuse from the Associate Dean of Student Services, Student Center Ste 245. No other documents will be excused. I do this to discourage you from missing class for anything other than the most serious or grave reasons.

Assigned Reading
Detailed assignments will be given in class. If you miss class, please contact me or another student for the next assignment. You may also wish to check CANVAS.

Generally, we will go through the course in the following manner.
Weeks 1-2 Introductory Concepts , Relativism and Egoistic Hedonism
Weeks 2-4 Mill, Utilitarianism
Weeks 5-7 Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
Week 8 : Mid Term Exam
Weeks 9-15 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

I am prepared to modify this as class discussion warrants

Exams These will be a combination of short answer and essay. As we finish each text, I will make available a study guide for this text. Questions for both short answer and essay will be derived from these study guides. Students will choose 10 out of 15 questions to answer for short answer, each to be answered in a brief paragraph. Students will also choose 1 essay question to answer (out of 2 or 3 given) in an essay of one to two pages.

Response papers You will find more information on what is expected from these on the attached sheets of paper. These will be turned in roughly every week, and each student is expected to complete every one of these. I will not accept any of these late for any reason, as the are meant to preface, not reflect, class discussion. Given that they are 40 percent of the course grade, if you find yourself unable to complete them regularly in a timely fashion, for whatever reason, you might wish to reconsider your participation in this course.

These papers will be due at the beginning of class time. They must be submitted to CANVAS by this time. If you have some difficulty submitting your paper to CANVAS, please let me know. These papers will be graded and have comments given to them in CANVAS.

Response Paper Instructions

On the average of once a week or so, usually (but not always) on the first day of the week, I will have you write out a brief response to the reading that you have read. These responses are meant to be brief discussions which gauge your attentiveness and thoroughness in reading. I do not have any “set” topics for this assignment (unless I indicate otherwise before the particular week), but I do have some general suggestions.

Suggested ideas

Doing any one of the following well will result in credit being given.

Discuss briefly something from the text read that puzzles you. Explain, as fully as you can, why you are so puzzled (what it is in the text that led you to this difficulty) and/or what possible solutions to the difficulty you think might help (and why you think they might help), as well as any doubts about the solutions you propose.

Discuss briefly something that you felt was wrong, foolish, morally corrupt, stupid, or otherwise objectionable from the text we have read. Explain fully what leads you to this conclusion. A really good response will look for possible replies to your objection, given what you have argued.

Discuss briefly something that you feel was particularly insightful or thought provoking, and say how this was arrived at from the text, and why you think this was insightful or thought-provoking.

How does what you have read compare with something else in your experience? By this, I mean things from your own personal experience, or things you have experienced vicariously through literature, film or music, historical study, social or political events, etc. I caution you with this, however. Taking one sentence from what is read out of context and then simply using this like a politician as a platform to talk about what you want to, regardless of its relevance to the major thrust of the text, is not good discussion. To avoid this, some discussion of the text as a whole should accompany your “application” to other realms. In other words, if you choose this option, choose something that is a main point or argument of the reading.

By giving you these four suggestions, I am not meaning to either limit you to these four. Generally, I am looking for something that intrigues you, and measuring your ability to clearly express what it is about what you have noticed that has led to this interest.

Format These papers should be typed, single-spaced, and no longer than one page. This should give you somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 to 600 words. . They must be ready to be turned in at the beginning of class on the day they are due. I will ordinarily turn back the papers a week later.
At the top of the page, you should put. These will be graded on a 3 point scale.

This is for people who have not turned in a response, turn in a response on the incorrect reading, or do not follow the instructions for a response paper. For example, you merely summarize the text with no comment or question, or you turn in identical work to others. This is for papers which follow the basic assignment, but fail to complete the assignment adequately. This may include, for example, large numbers of grammatical and/or stylistic errors, issues with coherence, ineffectively communicating of one’s reasoning, general carelessness and poor organization of your essay.

This is a passing grade. This means that you raised a question or made a comment in a largely coherent manner, and it was not difficult to follow the reasoning that got you to this point. Further, there were minimal errors of grammar, style or organization. Generally, a passing grade is one that shows that you took the proper care in both thinking about the assignment and expressing your comment.

This is for outstanding cases, and so is rare. This is for one that flawlessly executes the assignment, and further, does so in a creative way that penetrates to one of the significant questions raised in the text.

There will be about 11-12 of these during the term. I will drop the lowest grade of those responses in excess of 10.

This means that the following grading scale will be in effect for the semester.

End of Drop/Add period
Last Day for Withdrawal
Mid term break, no classes
Last Day of Classes
Final Exam Week

Here are two things that the University insists I put on the syllabus.

Course Objectives
To develop critical reading skills with complex texts.
To give students an introductory understanding of some basic issues in philosophy.
To develop the capacity to speak concisely about these issues.
To develop the capacity to articulate an understanding of and think critically about philosophical issues.

Expected Outcomes
Students should be able to articulate and identify the basic ideas and arguments in complex texts.
Students should be able to restate and analyze basic arguments regarding issues in philosophy.
Students should be able to articulate concisely these issues in classroom participation.
Students should be able to explain the significance of the philosophical issues discussed

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