Assignments must be done (reading completed, blog posted) PRIOR to class on the day assigned. Blogs done after the date assigned may be included in your final portfolio, but they will not count toward your 10 required. Comments on peer blogs can be done anytime during the week, on any t opic, but must be spaced out over the semester.
Introduction to the course.
Sign up with WordPress.com and bring your blog address to class.
Follow The Just Society
- Set up your e-portfolio at wordpress.com according to the guidelines on the assignments page.
- Complete your ‘about me’ page. Be sure to put your name on this page. If you want to use a pseudonym, let me know.
Blog Prompt 1:
- Give an example of a deductive, valid argument.
- Give an example of a weak inductive argument.
- Give an example of a strong inductive argument.
- Give an example of a persuasive deductive argument.
- Give an example of a persuasive inductive argument.
Ruth Benedict: A Defense of Ethical Relativism
- Blog Prompt 2: If Benedict’s defense of ethical relativism is correct, then the correct way to resolve a personal dilemma might be to take a survey or poll to see what the majority in your society think is right. If the majority favor capital punishment and oppose abortion, for example, then capital punishment is right and abortion is wrong. Can you defend Benedict against this consequence?
Loretta M. Kopelman: FEMALE CIRCUMCISION/GENITAL MUTILATION AND ETHICAL RELATIVISM
- Blog Prompt 3: Kopelman makes a distinction between types of relativism. What are the differences? What are the shared “methods of discovery, evaluation, and explanation” that Kopelman identifies? Do you agree that these methods allow for cross cultural judgments?
- Comments start this week. We will review this in class.
J. S. Mill: Utilitarianism, II (through paragraph 14)
(Download Chapter 2 as a PDF here)
- Blog Prompt 4: What reasons does Mill give in support of the Greatest Happiness Principle? Is utilitarianism a “pig philosophy?” How does Mill explain the fact that some people choose lower pleasures over higher pleasures? Do you agree with his assessment?
- Blog Prompt 5: How does Mill avoid the paradox of hedonism–the notion that if we pursue only our own happiness, we will never be happy? Is self-sacrifice a virtue in utilitarianism? What role does the principle of impartiality play in Mill’s calculation?
Peter Singer: Equality for Animals
- Blog Prompt 7: What is Peter Singer’s argument for extending the utilitarian calculation to include animals? Is it a good argument? How could it be better?
Kant, The Categorical Imperative
- Blog Prompt 7: What is the “good will?” Is Kant correct that it is the only intrinsic moral good? What is the source of our moral obligation?
Kant on Good Will, Moral Worth and Duty
- Blog Prompt 8: Kant says that a person motivated solely by her sympathy to help someone in need would not have done something of true moral worth. Why? Distinguish between hypothetical and categorical imperatives in your answer and discuss the role of inclination.
Kant’s Humanity Formulation of the CI
- Blog Prompt 9: Summarize and explain the second formulation of the categorical imperative commanding us to treat people (ourselves included) as “ends in themselves” and never merely as means. Consider intrinsic versus instrumental value and how that value plays a role in moral theory.
- You may do one of the Kant prompts from above for an “on-time” blog.
- Blog Prompt 10: What does Punzo mean when he calls sex a definitive experience? Why does he think uncommitted sex can’t be honest? Do you agree? What is the morally significant difference between having sex with someone and playing tennis with them?
Alan Goldman, “Plain Sex”
- Blog Prompt 11: Why does Goldman want to define “plain sex?” What is the “means-end analysis?” How does Goldman define sex and does this match your own definition?
- Discussion: What are the basic values of an ethical slut? What is sex-positivity? What moral obligations do you think come with sex?
Midterm Portfolio Review Week (No class) 3/19-23
Sign up for individual interview with Prof for midterm portfolio review.
- At this point in the semester, you should have a minimum of four blogs and eight comments. Ideally you would also have some glossary words defined and a total word count of at least 2000.
Spring Break March 19-23
Monday, April 2
Four Noble Truths by the Buddha
The Noble Eightfold Path
- Blog Prompt 12: Focus on a particular component of the eightfold path and apply it to your own life. Do you think that right action would mean less suffering? Refer to both readings in your explanation of the connection between virtue and the cessation of suffering.
Wednesday, April 4
Dalai Lama: “We need global, secular ethics”
The Higher Training in Ethical Conduct
- Blog Prompt 13: What are the Dalai Lama’s main commitments? Do you agree? Give examples of how humans could put these commitments into practice. What does his “higher training” add to the conversation?
Monday, April 9
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, Books I&2
(optional complete text here)
- Blog Prompt 14: Are the virtues merely a means to happiness? What is virtue? How does one become virtuous? What does Aristotle mean when he says that virtue is a state of character? Give examples and explain.
Wednesday, April 11
- Blog Prompt 15: What is an “incontinent man?” When does a person know what they are doing (that it is right or wrong)? When do we have a choice? Give Aristotle’s position and your own.
Monday & Wednesday (April 16-18)
- Blog Prompt 18: Consider the following pairs and how they would fit into Aristotle’s categories of friendship: Thomas/Victor, Victor/Arlene, Arnold/Suzie, Lucy/Velma. Near the end of the film, Thomas asks Victor,“Do you know why your Dad really left?” Victor replies, “Yeah. He didn’t mean to, Thomas.” What didn’t Arnold mean to do? What does this exchange reveal to us about Victor and Thomas? How would Aristotle categorize their friendship? (Due by Saturday, 4/21 )
Monday, April 23
Blog Prompt 16: Do you agree with Aristotle’s proposition that there are three types of friendship: friendship of pleasure, friendship of utility, and friendships in virtue? Can you identify people in your life that fall into any of the three categories?
- At this point in the semester, you should have a minimum of seven blogs and ten comments to be considered passing. Ideally, you would also have fourteen glossary words defined and a total word count of at least 3200.
Wednesday, April 25
Nicomachean Ethics Book 9, Sections 1-4 & 8.
Blog Prompt 17: Is it possible for bad people to have and be true friends? What role does self-love play in friendship?
Monday, April 30
Valerie Tiberius: “The Well-Being of Philosophy”
(read from the start through the diversity section)
Blog Prompt 19: Given the practical context, explain how Tiberius thinks we should think about the well-being of our friends. Using a real example from your own life, how would you apply her view?
Wednesday, May 2
Presentation/Blog Prompt 20: Take a scene from a movie (not Smoke Signals) and provide a clip or youtube link. Explain how the clip demonstrates something about friendship and how Aristotle or Tiberius would interpret the relationship. Be sure to reference the text (in other words, use quotes) and build an argument for your interpretation of the movie scene as well as your application of the philosophers.
If you write this blog, you must present it.
Monday, May 7 (last lecture)
Feminist Ethics & Moral Psychology
The Feminist Challenge
Blog Prompt 22:
- What elements of the moral life does feminist ethics emphasize? Do you believe there are situations in which impartiality is important in moral reasoning? Explain.
- Try taking the perspective of a person with whom you deeply disagree or of whom you strongly disapprove. What can you learn about that person’s motivations and outlook? What are the benefits and limits for ethical theory when it comes to perspective switching?
There is no class Wednesday, but you may turn in an additional blog this day that will count as “on-time.”
Portfolio Review Week (no classes)
Make an appointment for your individual final review with Prof. R.
FINAL PORTFOLIOS DUE
(all revisions must be done and final grade self-assessment emailed to prof BY MAY 16)