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 topic, but must be spaced out over the semester.

Week 1: 

Introduction to the course.

Week 2:


  • Syllabus Review


Portfolio set-up

Week 3:

Monday, Feb 4


  • Set up your e-portfolio at wordpress.com according to the guidelines on the assignments page.
  • Bring your url (blog address) to class on Monday
  • Complete your ‘about me’ page. Be sure to put your name on this page. If you want to use a pseudonym, let me know.
  • Campus computer labs are available (click here for a list)

Wednesday, Feb 6

Justice Exercise

  • Blog prompt 1: When did you first realize there was true injustice in the world? Tell a story that describes either your first encounter with injustice or a significant one.
    • After the in-class exercise, put the argument about justice, in standard form, at the start of your blog.

Week 4:

Monday, Feb 11

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?

Wednesday, Feb 13


  • 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?

Week 5:

Monday Feb 18 is a holiday.

Wednesday, Feb 20

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?


 Week 6

Monday, Feb 25

J. S. Mill:  Utilitarianism, II (paragraphs 15-25)

  • 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?

Wednesday, Feb 27

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?

Week 7:

Monday, March 4

Kant, The Categorical Imperative

  • Blog Prompt 7:  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.

Wednesday, March 6

Kant’s Humanity Formulation of the CI

  • Blog Prompt 8: 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.

Week 8

Monday, March 11

Vincent Punzo: “Morality and Human Sexuality” 

  • Blog Prompt 9: 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?

Wednesday, March 13

Punzo and Goldman PDF

Alan Goldman, “Plain Sex”

  • Blog Prompt 10: 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?


Dossie Easton, Janet W. Hardy: The Ethical Slut

  • Discussion: What are the basic values of an ethical slut? What is sex-positivity? What moral obligations do you think come with sex?

Week 9:

March 18-21: Midterm Portfolio Review Week (No class)

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.

 Week 10

Monday, March 25

Four Noble Truths by the Buddha

The Noble Eightfold Path

  • Blog Prompt 11: 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, March 27

Dalai Lama: “We need global, secular ethics”

The Higher Training in Ethical Conduct

  • Blog Prompt 12:  What are the Dalai Lama’s main commitments? What are their benefits? Do you share any of his commitments?

Week 11

Wednesday, April 3

Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, Books  I&2

(optional complete text here)

  • Blog Prompt 13:  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.

Week 12

Monday, April 8

Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, Book III

  • Blog Prompt 14: 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.

Wednesday, April 10

Nicomachean Ethics Book 8, Sections 1-5

Blog Prompt 15: 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?

Spring Break April 15-19

Week 13

April 22-24

Nicomachean Ethics


(watch Smoke Signals for free here)

  • Blog Prompt 16: 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, 4/27 )

Week 14

Monday, April 29

Presentation/Blog Prompt 18: 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 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.

Wednesday, May 1

The Feminist Challenge

  • Blog 19: 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.

Week 15

Monday, May 6

Blog Prompt 20:

  • 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?

Wednesday, May 8

Reasonable Partiality and Animal Ethics by Bernie Rollins

Blog Prompt 21: What is Rollin’s reasoning for extending rational partiality beyond companion animals? Do you think there are morally relevant differences between pigs and dogs, for example? What is the difference between Singer and Rollin? Who do you find more compelling?

Week 16:

May 13-17

Portfolio Review Week (no classes)

Make an appointment for your individual final review with Prof. R.

 FINAL PORTFOLIOS Completed by May 20

  • Complete all revisions and email your final grade argument to professor by that date.

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