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  Philosophy 191: Ethics and Contemporary Issues

  Professor GreenXXX. You can also call me Dr. GreenXXX. It’s your choice.


  Two Video Lectures a Week. One on Tuesday, the other on Thursday. Each will be posted at 8PM.

  * Once in a while, I may refer to a date in the lecture that doesn’t correspond to our class schedule. This is because I recorded some of these lectures prior to the semester. If this happens, please ignore. I may also reference discussion posts because I have used some of these lectures for past courses when I asked students to write discussion posts. Please ignore these references as well.


  There is no textbook. All reading materials will be available on Blackboard in the “Readings” section. Some of the pages of the readings will need to be rotated to easily read them. Please do this yourselves.

  Syllabus: This syllabus is on Blackboard in the “Readings.”

  Course Description:

  The purpose of this course is to introduce students to major ethical theories (e.g., utilitarianism, Kant's ethics) and these theories' application to contemporary ethical issues (e.g., animal welfare, abortion, terrorism). Students will also be taught the basics of the following: critical thinking, the evaluation of arguments, and techniques and styles unique to philosophical paper writing.

  Grading Policy:

  First Paper: 25% of final grade

  Second Paper: 25% of final grade

  Midterm Exam: 25% of final grade

  Final Exam: 25% of final grade

  Course Requirements:

  First Paper: 25% of final grade or 50 points; 3-4 pages; *Due by October 10th by 5 PM. Optional drafts due September 25 by 5 PM. Students are required to explain either utilitarianism or Kant's ethics and apply it to a topic of their choice. MUST EMAIL ME PAPER.

  Midterm Exam: 25% of final grade or 50 points; Multiple Choice, True/False Exam. *Must take October 17 by 8 PM.

  Second Paper: 25% of final grade or 50 points; 3-4 pages; *Due December 12 by 5 PM. Students are required to discuss an applied topic. MUST EMAIL ME PAPER.

  Final Exam: 25% of final grade or 50 points. Multiple Choice, True/False Exam. *Must take December 13 by 8 PM.

  **Your grade in Blackboard will initially appeal as percentage out of 100, but I will soon change it to the number of points it is out of the total of 50 points (your percent multiplied by 50).

  *You are responsible for turning assignments in on time. I strongly suggest adding reminders in your calendars to alert you about due dates.

  *I do not offer extra credit. I will also not allow you to redo an assignment.

  LATE WORK: Students will lose one-third of a letter grade for each day that the paper is late, except when an extension has already been granted (e.g., A to an A-; B+ to a B). This policy is non-negotiable. Late assignments will not be accepted. If you do not think you will be able to turn your paper in on time for whatever reason, you need to contact the instructor. The instructor must be contacted at least 24 hours in advance of the due date in order to receive an extension or accommodation. Extensions will not be granted in most cases, so do not rely on an extension unless you have an emergency. In some emergency situations, I may grant an extension even if I have not been contacted in advance of the due date.


  Students who are in need of disability-related academic accommodations must register with the Office

  of Disability Services (ODS), 804 University Avenue, Room 309, (315) 443-4498. Students with authorized disability-related accommodations should provide a current Accommodation Authorization Letter from ODS to the instructor and review these accommodations with the instructor. Accommodations, such as exam administration, are not provided retroactively; therefore, planning for accommodation as early as possible is necessary.

  For more information, see the Office of Disability Services,


  The Syracuse University Academic Integrity Policy holds students accountable for the integrity of the

  work they submit. Students should be familiar with the Policy and know that it is their responsibility

  to learn about instructor and general academic expectations with regard to proper citation of sources

  in written work. The policy also governs the integrity of work submitted in exams and assignments as

  well as the veracity of signatures on attendance sheets and other verifications of participation in class

  activities. Serious sanctions can result from academic dishonesty of any sort.

  For more information and the complete policy, see the Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures on the

  University’s website at


  Syracuse University recognizes the diverse faith traditions represented among its campus community and supports the rights of faculty, staff, and students to observe according to these traditions.

  All University offices are asked to be sensitive to the needs of faculty, staff, and students who are observing a religious holiday when scheduling meetings and events.

  Students are asked to consider that it is more difficult to arrange appropriate accommodations in some kinds of courses - for example, those that have certain kinds of laboratories or a significant experiential learning component - so students should consider their need for accommodation for religious observances as they plan their schedule each semester. Students should recall that not every course is offered every academic year and that the catalog indicates how frequently each course is offered.

  Faculty are asked to make appropriate accommodation for students' observance needs by providing an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirement that is missed because of an absence due to a religious observance, provided the instructor has been notified no later than the end of the second week of classes. No fees will be charged to the student for the costs incurred by the University for such make-up work. If a faculty member is unwilling or unable to make an appropriate accommodation, the student should consult his or her academic dean.

  For more information, and the complete policy, see the Religious Observances Policy on the University's website at

  **NOTICE**: Students can go to Student Services on Myslice to notify the instructor that he or she will be missing a class for a religious holiday. Under Student Services, click on My Religious Observances. This feature will only be present on Myslice for the first TWO WEEKS of class. After the first two weeks of class, if students have not notified the instructor of future absences due to religious holidays, instructors are not required to accommodate the student academically.

  Schedule (*Subject to Change):

  Introduction to Ethics (8/28)

  1. “Ethics and Ethical Reasoning”

  2. Introduction to Basic Logical Concepts

  Why Be Moral?

  1. Plato, “The Immoralist’s Challenge” (8/30)

  2. Shafer-Landau, “Moral Rationalism” (9/4)


  2. Shafer-Landau, “Ethical Relativism” and “Ethical Nihilism” (9/6)

  3. Mackie, “The Subjectivity of Values” (9/11)

  4. Enoch, “Why I am an Objectivist about Ethics” (9/13)

  5. Midgley, “Falling on One’s Sword.” (9/18)


  1. “Utilitarianism” (9/20)

  2. Smilansky. “Utilitarianism and the 'Punishment' of the Innocent: The General Problem” (9/25)

  3. Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” (9/27)

  4. Shafer-Landau, “Consequentialism: Its Difficulties” (10/2)

  Optional First Paper Drafts Due 10/4 by 5 PM


  1. Shafer-Landau, “The Kantian Perspective” (10/4)

  2. Korsgaard, “The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil” (10/9)

  First Papers Due 10/11 by 5 PM

  Virtue Ethics

  1. Shafer-Landau, “Virtue Ethics” AND Aristotle:“The Nature of Moral Virtue.” (10/11)


  1. Gauthier, “Why Contractarianism?” (10/16)

  Midterm Exam: October 18 Due by 8 PM (No Reading/Lecture This Day)

  2. Shafer-Landau, “The Social Contract Tradition: Problems and Prospects” (10/23)

  Abortion, Trolley Cases, and the Doctrine of Double Effect

  1. Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion: A Compromise View” (10/25)

  2. Marquis, Don. “Why Abortion is Immoral” (10/30)

  3. Foot, Philippa. “The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect” (11/1)

  4. Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “Turning the Trolley” (11/6)

  Environmental Ethics

  1. Macklin, Ruth. “Can Future Generations Correctly Be Said to Have Rights?” (11/8)

  2. Feinberg, Joel. “The Rights of Animals and Unborn Generations” (11/13)

  Animal Ethics

  1. Norcross, Alastair. “Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases” (11/15)

  2. Second Norcross Lecture (11/20)

  3. Singer, Peter. “Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism” (11/22)


  1. Walzer. “Terrorism: A Critique of Excuses” AND McPherson: “Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong?” Lecture 1 (11/27)

  2. McPherson. “Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong?” Lecture 2 (11/29)

  Distribute Final Study Guide on 12/4. No Reading/Lecture.

  SECOND PAPER DUE: 12/10 by 5 PM.

  FINAL EXAM: 12/11 by 8 PM.