Dan Hausman,                                              Office Hours: Tues.3:00 - 4:00; Wed. 10:00-11:00

5185E Helen C. White Hall

263-5178; fax 265-3701

email: dhausman@facstaff.wisc.edu

Philosophy 341 Fall 2000 Syllabus


Introduction:

Although one cynical reaction to the world around us is to think of morality as empty words, the actions of individuals and even of whole societies are nevertheless influenced by moral judgments. Furthermore (although further cynical qualms are possible here), our moral judgments concerning actions and social policies are influenced by reasoning and argument.

In this course we shall be considering five controversial moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) capital punishment, 4) affirmative action and 5) school choice. In addition, to provide some perspective and depth in our consideration of the particular issues, we shall spend some time with ethical theory, especially with regard to the issue of school choice.


Course Goals:

1. To provide some solid knowledge of the moral arguments concerning surrogate motherhood, abortion, capital punishment, affirmative action, and school choice. By providing this knowledge the course should help you to develop and to deepen your own views on these matters and to see through simplistic and shallow arguments. The moral arguments you will be studying will in many cases challenge your convictions or permit you to refine them.

2. To provide an introduction to moral argument and to moral theory in general: This course should help you to see how rational argument in morality works and to appreciate the force and limits of such arguments. The course should also help you to appreciate what moral theory is, how it can be important in your life and in society in general, how it can be valid and powerful, even though not always capable of producing consensus.

3. To provide an introduction to the nature of argument and of informal logic in general: To appreciate what can be said concerning moral issues such as affirmative action, one must be able to tell the difference between good and bad arguments and one needs to be able to present and criticize arguments effectively. To the extent that this course helps you to make and criticize arguments, it should be of considerable use to you, quite apart from its particular subject matter.

4. To help you to develop your abilities to present and to criticize arguments both in discussion and, in particular, in writing: Every good essay, regardless of the subject matter, is an extended argument for some thesis or conclusion. The only thing special about philosophy essays is the extent to which one focuses upon the logic of the argument. This course should help you to write more sharply organized, focused and effective essays.

The extent to which these course goals can be achieved is, of course, largely up to you, but it is important that you appreciate what the teaching assistant and I are trying to accomplish. If you cannot see how any particular lecture or reading assignment relates to the goals of the course, please be sure to ask about it. In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is. Keep asking "So what?" Since this course is much more concerned with mastering skills than with merely acquiring information, it demands your active participation.


What this course does not aim to do:

1. This course does not aim to provide pat answers to questions such as "Is affirmative action morally permissible?" (It is not a version of Sunday School.) I have my own views concerning the issues, and in some cases, I feel confident that I've got some good answers. Yet I shall not be concerned to convert anybody. What is important in the course is conviction, intellectual honesty, and the sort of perseverance that makes one struggle to bring one's convictions and the weight of argument into accord. The course should help you rationally to make up your minds concerning surrogate motherhood, abortion, capital punishment, affirmative action, and school choice, but it will not preach a set of "correct" positions.

2. This course does not aim to provide a thorough or precise introduction to moral theory. Although you should learn some moral theory, the subject is a deeper one than it might appear from the introductory material we will consider.


Note: Students are encouraged to discuss problems concerning the teaching of this course with the instructor and/or the TA. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact James Anderson, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.


Texts:

Francis Beckwith and Todd Jones, ed. Affirmative Action: Social Justice or Reverse Discrimination (AA)

Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice (SCSJ)

Xeroxed collection.

Both will be on sale only at the Underground Textbook Exchange, 664 State Street


Course Web Site:

A variety of material, including the syllabus and some other materials in the xeroxed collection will also be available on the course web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/341f2000.htm


Course Requirements:

There will be two essays, a midterm, a final examination, homework assignments, and ungraded quizzes. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (50%), the midterm (15%), the final (25%) and the homework (10%).

LECTURES AND DISCUSSION SECTIONS Attendance is optional, but our hope is that these will be so valuable that you will not want to miss any. Intelligent contributions to discussion in lecture or section will also help to boost your semester grade. I welcome questions and comments during lecture.

QUIZZES These will be ungraded and are intended to provide food for thought as well as early warning concerning skills and issues that may be difficult for you.

INTRODUCTORY PAPER The introductory essay should be no more than 1000 words in length. It is designed to give you an opportunity to try your hand at writing a philosophy essay without the anxiety of having much of your grade depend on the result. It counts for only ten percent of your grade and is due promptly at the beginning of class on Wednesday, October 4.

TERM PAPER The term paper counts for 40% of your semester grade. It should be no more than 1800 words and the first draft is due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, November 8. You will have the opportunity to rewrite the term paper and to submit a revised version, which will be due on Wednesday, December 6. If you submit a revised version, your grade will be the average of your grades on the two versions.

DEBATES We will begin the consideration of each of the five issues with which this course is concerned with a debate on that issue. Each debate except the first will be the responsibility of one of the sections, and we will poll sections to find out which issues students in each section prefer to debate. Because of time constraints, I will ask for volunteers to participate in the first debate. Those who actually participate in the debates will receive credit for two homework assignments on the issue debated, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. See below, p. 7 for further information about the debates.

EXAMS There will be a midterm on Monday, October 23 and a final examination during the scheduled examination period. Part of the examinations will be in essay format. The exams will test your ability to apply the skills and arguments with which the course is concerned. Although the final examination will be cumulative, it will focus on the latter part of the course.

HOMEWORK There will be frequent homework assignments. The individual assignments will not be corrected, and only a sample will be read. You will receive a homework grade depending on how many of the assignments you complete. The assignments are listed in the syllabus. The homework will count for 10% of your semester grade. For details on how homework will be graded, see below, p. 7.


Course Outline:


Wednesday, September 6: Introduction: discussion of the goals, structure and requirements of the course; discussion of the notion of what is morally right and of the distinction between facts and values.


Monday, September 11: On arguments, moral arguments and the relations between ethical theories and practical moral judgments.

D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "What Are Moral Questions and How Can They Be Answered?"


Wednesday, September 13: Individual rights and the limits of government: Where do natural rights come from? What determines their scope? To what extent do they depend on matters of social expediency?

John Locke, Chapter 2 "Of the State of Nature" of his Second Treatise of Government

Homework #1 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words (one or two typed pages--but it doesn't have to be typed) stating your "initial" view of whether surrogate motherhood contracts ought to be legally binding. Give what seems to you to be the strongest argument in support of your initial view and try to make the argument as clear and logical as possible. Explain what reservations one might have concerning your argument and your position.


Monday, September 18: Debate: Resolved that contracts whereby a surrogate mother agrees to bear and to give up a child in exchange for a fee ought to be as legally binding as is any other contract.

John Locke, Chapter 2 "Of the State of Nature" of his Second Treatise of Government

J.C.S. Sorkow, Opinion in the "Baby-M" case,

Katha Pollitt, "The Strange Case of Baby M,"

Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court


Wednesday, September 20: Does permitting or banning surrogate motherhood contracts increase individual freedom? Does either policy violate individual rights? Qualms about surrogacy: What is right under ideal circumstances versus what is right under actual circumstances. Is there a conflict here in our understanding of individual liberty?

J.C.S. Sorkow, Opinion in the "Baby-M" case

Katha Pollitt, "The Strange Case of Baby M"

Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court

Homework #2 due: Write an essay of 300 words comparing the two sample essays that are in the course booklet immediately following the syllabus. Which is better and exactly why is it better?


Monday, September 25: On the limits of contracts and of the natural rights--conclusions on surrogate motherhood

Homework #3 due. Write a brief essay of roughly 300 words analyzing the following argument:

Provided that the parties are competent and sign voluntarily, surrogate motherhood contracts should be legally binding, because they do not call on the parties to do anything illegal. All contracts between competent individuals that are voluntarily signed and that do not call on the parties to do anything illegal should be legally binding.

Formulate this argument as logically valid and discuss whether it is sound. This homework assignment is something of a "dry run" for the introductory paper.


Wednesday, September 27: Debate #2: Resolved that abortion ought to be legal only in circumstances where continuing a pregnancy would lead to the death of the mother.

Roe v. Wade

Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: A Human Rights Approach"

Immanuel Kant, "The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals"


Monday, October 2: On rights and persons: What is a person? Do only persons have rights? Why do persons have rights? How can we decide which rights a person has?

Immanuel Kant, "The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals"

Roe v. Wade

Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

Homework #4 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words presenting and criticizing the argument that abortion should be legal because women have the right to determine what they do with their bodies. Whether or not you agree with the conclusion of the argument, try to show why the argument, as usually presented, is faulty.


*Wednesday, October 4: Is a fetus a person? What is the relationship between mental capacities and being a person? What is the right to life?

Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

Start Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"

Introductory paper due. Write an essay of no more than 1000 words that clarifies and assesses the following argument made by Judge Sorkow (on p. 8 of his opinion):

It is argued that Mrs. Whitehead should have a time period after delivery to determine if she wants to surrender the child. Such a rule has been developed in Kentucky. . . .To wait for birth, to plan, pray and dream of the joy it will bring and then be told that the child will not come home, that a new set of rules applies and to ask a court to approve such a result deeply offends the conscience of this court. A person who has promised is entitled to rely on the concomitant promise of the other promisor.

Work hard at clarifying this specific argument and making it precise before you attempt to defend it or to criticize it. Be sure that your essay has a definite thesis and that your paper presents Sorkow’s views as part of your logically organized argument for your thesis. Your essay should also show awareness of possible difficulties or weaknesses in your argument and conclusion and should attempt to address them.

Make sure that your essay is double-spaced with wide margins and that it is correct in technical matters of spelling, punctuation, and so forth. Be sure also to consult the general suggestions on paper writing near the end of the syllabus.


Monday, October 9: What's wrong with killing a fetus? If it is prima facie wrong to kill a fetus, is abortion then impermissible?

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: A Human Rights Approach"

Homework #5 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words presenting and criticizing the argument that abortion should be illegal because it involves killing a living human being. Whether or not you agree with the conclusion of the argument, try to show why the argument, as usually presented, is faulty.


Wednesday, October 11: If a fetus has a right to life, does it follow that abortion is morally impermissible? What about the rights of the mother to control her own body? What if the mother will die unless an abortion is performed?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: A Human Rights Approach"


Monday, October 16: Utilitarianism: What is it? What are its implications for abortion? What arguments are there for or against utilitarianism?

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"


Wednesday, October 18: Review session and start readings on affirmative action


Monday, October 23: Midterm Examination


Wednesday, October 25: Debate: Resolved that affirmative action whereby African Americans are given preferential treatment in educational admissions and hiring is morally permissible.

Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart" AA, pp. 34-55.

Lyndon Johnson "To Fulfill These Rights: Commencement Address at Howard University" AA, pp. 56-63.

Ward Connerly, "The Sweet Music of Equal Treatment" AA, pp. 64-69.

Ronald Dworkin, "The DeFunis Case: The Right to Go to Law School," AA, pp. 70-89.

Richard Wasserstrom, "A Defense of Programs of Preferential Treatment," AA, 198-204.

D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"

George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.

Michael Levin, "Is Racial Discrimination Special?" AA, 214-26.

Louis Pojman, "The Moral Status of Affirmative Action," AA, 175-97.

Shelby Steele, "Affirmative Action: The Price of Preference" AA, 132-41.

Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action"

Steven Holmes, "A Most Diverse University's New Legal Tack"

Homework #6: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your "initial" view of whether affirmative action programs are morally permissible. Give what seems to you to be the strongest argument in support of your initial view and try to make the argument as clear and logical as possible. Explain what reservations one might have concerning your argument and your position.


Monday, October 30: Affirmative Action: Introduction. Is discrimination ever morally permissible?

Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart" AA, pp. 34-55.

Lyndon Johnson "To Fulfill These Rights: Commencement Address at Howard University" AA, pp. 56-63.

Ward Connerly, "The Sweet Music of Equal Treatment" AA, pp. 64-69.

Ronald Dworkin, "The DeFunis Case: The Right to Go to Law School," AA, pp. 70-89.


Wednesday, November 1: Libertarianism and affirmative action: the compensation argument

D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"

George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.

Homework#7: Ward Connerly quotes the following passage from UC Berkeley’s Daily Californian "Race-based affirmative action is wrong because it discriminates on the basis of race. For three decades, such discriminatory policies have been embraced with the hope that they would reverse the effects of centuries of racism....But the ends of social policy do not justify the means." (AA, pp. 65-66) Analyze this criticism of affirmative action. What is meant by "discrimination," and why is discrimination wrong? How strong an argument is this against affirmative action? Write a 300-500 word essay developing your answers to these questions.


Monday, November 6: The compensation argument for affirmative action:

George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.

Michael Levin, "Is Racial Discrimination Special?" AA, 214-26.

Louis Pojman, "The Moral Status of Affirmative Action," AA, 175-97.


*Wednesday, November 8: Affirmative action, its varieties, consequences, and basis

Louis Pojman, "The Moral Status of Affirmative Action," AA, 175-97.

Shelby Steele, "Affirmative Action: The Price of Preference" AA, 132-41.

start Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action"

Term Paper Due. Study the essay at the end of the course packet entitled "Bakke’s Case: Are Quotas Unfair?" by Ronald Dworkin and write an analytical essay clarifying and defending or criticizing some feature of his argument. Your essay should have a definite and substantial thesis, and it should be logically organized as an argument for your thesis. Be sure that your exposition of Dworkin's views is integrated into your argument rather than as functioning as a preface to your argument or a digression from it. Be sure to think hard about objections to your point of view and about how to respond to them. You can draw on other readings on affirmative action, including the other essays by Dworkin, as well as outside sources, but this is meant to be an analytical rather than a research paper.

Term papers are to be no more than 1800 words long. They should be printed double-spaced with at least 1" margins, and they should be correct in spelling, punctuation, grammar and so forth. When you cite any texts, including the Dworkin article, you must give references so that we can check them. Formal footnotes are not necessary. It is enough to put a reference such as "(Dworkin, "Bakke’s Case," p. 7)" in the text. But references are not optional, and your grade will be lowered if references are missing.

If you have trouble with your writing, I encourage you to seek help in the writing lab. The TA and I will be happy to help you with your papers, but because you have the option of rewriting them, we will not read and comment on rough drafts.

Be sure to consult the general directions on writing philosophy papers near the end of the syllabus.


Monday, November 13: Concluding words on affirmative action

Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action"

Steven Holmes, "A Most Diverse University's New Legal Tack"

Homework #8 due: Write a 300-500 word essay concerning whether Bok and Bowen's findings in The Shape of the River constitute a good argument in defense of affirmative action in admission to selective universities. Bok and Bowen’s findings are discussed in Dworkin’s "Affirming Affirmative Action."


Wedneday, November 15: Debate: Resolved that execution is a morally permissible punishment for first-degree murder.

James Fieser, "Capital Punishment"

John Stuart Mill, "Speech in Favor of Capital Punishment"

John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules"

Ernest van den Haag, "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense"

Jeffrey Reiman, "Just Deserts and Just Punishments" from "Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty"

Homework #9 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your "initial" view of whether capital punishment is morally permissible. Give what seems to you to be the strongest argument in support of your initial view and try to make the argument as clear and logical as possible. Explain what reservations one might have concerning your argument and your position.


Monday, November 20: Punishment and desert

James Fieser, "Capital Punishment"

John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules"

Jeffrey Reiman, "Just Deserts and Just Punishments" from "Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty"

Homework #10 due: In two or three hundred words, try to explain what it means to say that someone who commits murder deserves death and how we can tell whether this claim is true.. (Warning: this is a hard assignment! The readings will help you to answer it.)


Wednesday, November 22: The death penalty in the United States and its utilitarian assessment

John Stuart Mill, "Speech in Favor of Capital Punishment"

Ernest van den Haag, "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense"

John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules"


Monday, November 27: Debate: Resolved that a comprehensive system of school choice for elementary and secondary schools be instituted.

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, excerpts.

Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice, chapters 1, 2, 6, 8, and 9

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, pp. 85-100.

Loren Lomasky, Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community, pp. 165-87.

Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities, pp. 214-33.

Homework #11 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your "initial" view of school choice (voucher) programs ought to be instituted. Give what seems to you to be the strongest argument in support of your initial view and try to make the argument as clear and logical as possible. Explain what reservations one might have concerning your argument and your position.


Wednesday, November 29: School choice and problems of social justice

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, excerpts.

Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice, chapter 1


Monday, December 4: The argument for choice

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, pp. 85-100.

Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice, chapter 2

Homework #12 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words restating as clearly as you can Friedman's argument for instituting a system of school choice.


*Wednesday, December 6: The libertarian case for choice and the problem of justice toward children

Loren Lomasky, Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community, pp. 165-87.

Optional Revision of Term Paper Due


Monday, December 11: Educational equality and school choice

Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities, pp. 214-33.

Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice, chapters 6, 8


Wednesday, December 13: Designing a just school choice system

Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice, chapters 8, 9

Homework #13 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words explaining how your views on one of the issues discussed this semester changed and why they changed.


Debates:

At the beginning of the discussion of each of the five issues with which the course in concerned, there will a debate on a specific resolution concerning the issue. One section will be responsible for each of the issues except the first, and we will do our best to satisfy the debate preferences of the sections. To compensate participants in the debates for their efforts, they will receive credit for two of the homework assignments concerned with the issue debated without having to hand them in, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. So debaters on surrogate motherhood do not have to hand in assignments #1 and #3; those on abortion, do not have to hand in assignments #4 and #5; those on affirmative action need not hand in assignments #6 and #7; those debating capital punishment can omit assignments #9 and #10; and those debating school choice need not hand in assignments #11 and #12. During the first lecture, I will ask for volunteers to participate in the first debate on surrogate motherhood. There should be at least three and no more than five debaters on each side. The members of the discussion section responsible for the given issue are required to read ahead, so that during the section meeting before the debate they can thrash through the issues, and select section members to present the arguments pro and con that come up in the reading and discussion. The debate team members will need to decide how to divide up and organize their presentation, but they are not required to meet again by themselves. If there are no volunteers in section to serve in the debate, debaters will be chosen by lot. These debates can be a lot of fun and valuable to the whole class, not just to the participants; but their success depends (of course) on you.

The format for the debates will be as follows: Each team will have ten minutes to make its case. The team-members may divide up the time or choose one or two speakers to express their position. Then the floor will be open to give and take between the two teams, and all the debaters will be expected to participate. If I think it useful, I may direct some questions to the teams at the beginning of the give-and-take session. There is no definite time limit to this second round, but I will break off the exchange at some point to permit questions and arguments from the audience. I expect the debates to take about two-thirds of a class period, but I'll try not to cut off lively and productive discussion.


Homework:

The homework assignments are not meant to be polished essays and, unlike the introductory and term papers, they will not be graded for style, organization, spelling, and so forth. I will skim the homework and check to see that you've done what is required, but I will only read a random sample carefully. Each assignment will be graded "pass" or "fail," and everyone who does what is assigned conscientiously can expect to pass. The last semester that I taught 341, I failed only a handful out of the hundreds of homework assignments handed in. You need to hand in only eleven of the thirteen homework assignments. For my own curiosity, I would hope that as many students as possible are able to hand in homework #13.

There are many homework assignments and many possible reasons why students may fail to hand them in on time, and the teaching assistant and I could wind up spending many hours keeping track of excuses. To simplify matters, homework will be counted as handed in on time if the total number of late classes during the semester is six or less. (For example, your homework would count as on time if your 2nd assignment were 2 classes late, your 5th were 3 classes late, and your 6th were 1 class late.) This system is intended as a substitute for keeping track of excuses why your homework was late. If there is some reason why your homework is still later (as, for example, serious medical problems), then we will, of course, take account of your excuse. Specific excuses can, however, be used only instead of the six-class allowance. Specific excuses cannot be used in addition to that allowance. All homework must be in by the last class. Homework counts as one class late if it is not handed in before or during class on the assigned date. Homework may not be submitted via email.

If the total number of late classes is more than six, you will lose one-half point for each late class. Remember that you need hand in only twelve of the fourteen assignments. The grading will be as follows: 11 = A, 10.5 = AB, 10 = B, 9.5 = BC, 9 = C, 8.5 = D, 8 or below failing.


Discussions:

Discussions are difficult to manage in a large class, but with such controversial and important issues we should strive for as much as possible. Don't be surprised if I call on you during lecture, especially if you are sitting at the back of the class. This is not material to be passively absorbed, and I shall try to keep you involved thinking along with me.


Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Tuesdays 3-4 and Wednesdays 10:00-11:00) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet. My job is to help you to master the skills and material with which this course is concerned, so feel free to come see me.


The Use of Email:

Email can be a great convenience, but in a class of 100 students, it can get out of hand. TAs will develop their own guidelines, which you should be careful to respect. With respect to communicating with me, feel free to email me at dhausman@facstaff.wisc.edu with any specific questions you have about assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I will post them on the course discussion page. If you do not want your question posted, you should let me know. Otherwise I will assume that in emailing me, you’ve given me permission to post your question. You can send me substantive philosophical questions, too, provided that you also post them on the course discussion page. I will post my answers as well. That way I can serve as many students as possible. Some questions are not appropriate. For example, "Could you please restate the last three lectures?" And some questions are better discussed in person than over email. I’ll do the best I can to be helpful.


A Note on Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me or with your TA. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure.


Grading:

In a typical class of 341, the median grade is between a B and BC. So unless this class is on the whole better than average, nearly half of you can expect to receive a grade of BC or lower. A grade of a BC does not mean that you are doing poor work. It means that you are doing roughly average work.


The role of the readings in the course:.

Unlike some professors, I do not devote my lectures mainly to the exposition and discussion of the readings (though I am happy to entertain questions about how my lectures relate to the readings). Although I will often cite and often criticize specific arguments from the readings, the lectures usually present an independent perspective on the issues. Critically engaging with the arguments in the lecture is your most important task, but you will be better able to understand the arguments I make if you study the readings carefully. I selected the readings to represent a variety of different perspectives, and even when they are mistaken, there are valuable lessons to be learned from understanding their mistakes. The examinations will ask not only that you have mastered the material in the lectures but that you be able to relate the arguments in the lectures to the arguments in the readings and to respond intelligently to questions concerning the important arguments in the readings.


Some hints on reading philosophy papers:

Although you will not be able to understand completely the most difficult philosophical texts such as Kant's Groundwork, you should aim to master most of the readings, particularly those that address specific issues. Here are some detailed hints about how to do so:

1. Use your highlighter very sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively engaging the author is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)

2. The assignments are usually short, and you should plan on reading them all at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:

a. What is the author's position?

b. What is the general structure of the paper? Is it a collection of separate arguments, or does it aim to make one main argument?

c. What are the author's main assumptions? (Where is the author coming from?)

d. Against whom does the author take him/herself to be arguing? What is the context in which the piece was written?

e. What is the main line of argument (or what are the main lines of argument)?

f. What objections does the author address and how successful is the author in answering them?

g. How does the author's position relate to your views? To what extent does the author reinforce or challenge your views?

h. How do the author's arguments relate to the arguments developed in lecture and in other reading assignments? What criticisms would the author make of arguments developed in lecture or in other readings? To what extent is the position of the author open to criticisms made in lecture or in other readings?

During the second reading of the assignment, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than asking, as suggested above, questions about what the author's purposes, organization, and argument are, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the author's arguments


General Directions on Writing the Papers

Style and references:

1. You are expected to give references when you cite detailed claims or arguments made in the readings, and your papers should, where appropriate, show familiarity with relevant materials from the lectures or reading for the course. But you are expected to write essays, not examination answers. So don't introduce irrelevant matters to demonstrate that you have done the course readings. (But you must not ignore relevant supporting arguments and, particularly, objections in the readings.) Cite the readings only when they are relevant. Be sure that your paper is a well organized argument for some clearly articulated thesis.

2. When you quote, paraphrase, or make use of a point made by others, be sure to document the source. We are not particular about what style you use. All that matters is that your references be precise and usable. If you say that Mill says that liberty is worthless, it should be clear on what page Mill supposedly says that. The easiest way to give a reference is simply to put the source and page number in parenthesis. Papers without clear references (where needed) will be marked down.

3. Papers must be typed or printed double-spaced with wide margins (at least one inch) on all sides, so that there is plenty of room for marginal comments. Be sure to keep copies of your papers. Please do not use binders.

4. Papers for the course must be essentially correct in their "mechanical" aspects-- spelling, punctuation, grammar, typing, and so forth. Papers with more than 3 or 4 errors per page will be marked down, and if they are very messy, they will not only be penalized, but they will also be returned for correction before they are graded. Obviously spelling and typing are of no intrinsic importance, but messy papers are hard to assess; and it is not unfair to expect you to take responsibility for making sure that your papers are correct in these regards. If you have difficulty with the mechanical features of paper writing, please get someone to proofread your paper before you hand it in.

Hints on essay writing:

1. The paper topics are not recipes for writing your essays. You have to decide what it is that you want to maintain in your essays. Do not regard the paper topic as an essay examination question. Although your papers must be on the assigned topic, the point is to write a well-organized and unified argument for some clearly enunciated conclusion.

2. The task of writing a good essay is virtually identical with the task of thinking out a clear thesis or conclusion that you want to defend and then elaborating and defending it. You should be able to say clearly and precisely not only what your paper is about, but also what your paper maintains. Be sure each of your papers has both a thesis--that it asserts something definite--and a logical organization. Once it is clear what you what to show, you will have a criterion to decide what is relevant and the basis for organizing your paper. Can you put your main point clearly in a sentence? Can you say clearly in a sentence what your paper shows or proves? Are all the parts of your paper relevant to your main point? Is the structure of your argument clear? No good essay merely summarizes things you have read and then offers your remarks or points of comparison or differences you noticed. Every acceptable essay integrates its remarks into an argument of its own. Exposition of the views of others should always be part of your argument for your thesis.

3. Note that a well-organized paper is not merely orderly. For example, a paper that argues that Mill argues claims 1, 2, and 3 and that one can defend claim 1 as follows, claim 2 as follows, but not claim 3 is certainly orderly, and it certainly has a thesis. But it would only be well-organized--truly one paper rather than three--if the discussions of the three claims bore some relations to one another and if the paper added up to some unified and substantive statement.

4. Avoid first paragraphs that says things such as, "First I will discuss the views of Pollitt and Sorkow. Then I will discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Then I will compare their conclusions and formulate my opinion." Passages such as these make it sound as if your argument will begin only on the last page. Exposition of the views of others has to find its place within your argument, not as a preface to your argument. If you think in terms of what you want to establish, and outline your paper in terms of stages in your argument, your essay will be much stronger.

5. Try to say exactly what you mean. Pay careful attention to your language. Sentences such as "Abortion is a mistaken principle" are unacceptably careless. Value your words and use them accurately.

6. To help in organizing your thinking, you should attempt to answer the following three questions:

1. What is your thesis--that is, what is it that you are trying to maintain or show or prove? What is your main argument for your thesis?

2. What is the most important objection to or criticism of your thesis that you need to consider? Formulate that objection or criticism as an argument.

3. What is your argument in response to the objection or criticism mentioned in answer to question 2?

If you cannot answer these questions clearly and easily, then there are serious problems with your paper. Do not regard your papers as finished or acceptable until each clearly implies answers to the above questions. (But an essay is not, of course, a list of answers to any set of questions.) Taking the task of answering these questions seriously can make a big difference in the quality of your paper.


Special considerations in writing philosophical papers:

1. In a political debate, the point is to win, and one consequently tries to make the arguments of one's opponents sound as ridiculous and worthless as possible. In a philosophical debate (or in writing a philosophy essay), in contrast, the objective is to learn the truth. So you should try to make the arguments conflicting with your views as compelling as possible, before you answer them. If there are any objections to what you are maintaining that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side".

2. Although many sociological and economic facts are relevant to the issues you are addressing in your essays, be careful to keep your focus philosophical. If you aren't sure whether your papers are philosophical or not, check with me or with your TA.


Seeking help:

As you are working on the final versions of your essays, please feel free to come to me or to your teaching assistant for help. You do not need to do any further research, but you can consult with us if you want references for further reading.


Paper grading criteria


An "A" paper typically has all of the following virtues, although in exceptional cases papers with only five of the six virtues might merit an "A"

1. It has a well-defined thesis and a logical organization.

2. It shows good sense, intellectual honesty and struggle. It attempts to defend a defensible thesis and takes seriously objections to that thesis.

3. It is well-informed. If there are passages in the assigned readings for the course that are particularly relevant to the matters under discussion in the essay, these are cited and discussed. The paper shows an awareness of conceptual dis-tinctions and clarifications developed in the course.

4. It is intelligent, logical, and careful. The argument is carefully articulated and developed. Obvious difficulties are anticipated and answered, and gaps are closed.

5. It is significant. The issues discussed, although typically matters of detail, are of some importance, and their importance is made clear within the essay.

6. The paper is written in a lucid and grammatical style.


A "B" paper has the following virtues:

1. As before.

2. As before.

3. As before.

4. It is logical and not careless. The argument is well articulated.

5. It is not trivial. The essay provides some motivation for its topic.

6. The paper is grammatical.


A "C" paper has at least the following virtues:

1. It is orderly and has some focus.

2. It shows some serious concern with the issues it deals with.

3. It is not uninformed. Where relevant, it shows awareness of the content of the course.

4. There are some definite and cogent arguments in the essay.

5. The paper has some point.

6. The paper is readable and minimally grammatical.


A "D" paper

1. Has some intelligible organization.

2. Shows some concern with the issues it deals with.

3. Shows minimal awareness of the course content.

4. Makes some relevant and sensible argument

5. Has some point.

6. Is comprehensible.