Dan Hausman
5197 Helen C. White Hall
263-5178 dhausman@wisc.edu

Jaime Ahlberg
5160 Helen C. White Hall
263-0775 jlahlberg@wisc.edu
Office Hours: Monday 10-12

Office Hours:
Wednesday 1:00-2:00
Monday 10:00-11:00

Justine Wells
5172 Helen C. White Hall
263-2065 justinewells@wisc.edu
Office Hours: Wed. 3:30-5:30 

Philosophy 341 Syllabus


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.

This course will give us the opportunity to think deeply about six controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) capital punishment, 4) gay marriage, 5) pharmacists who refuse to fulfill prescriptions for contraception, and 6) reproductive cloning. In addition, to provide some perspective and depth in our consideration of the particular issues, we shall spend some time with ethical theory.

Course Goals:

The overall goal is to enable all members of the class to reflect on their views and through this reflection and the criticisms of others to reach better articulated and justified conclusions. This requires both cultivation of skills of argumentation and criticism and familiarity with the considerations that support different sides of these issues. More specifically the course aims:

1. To provide some solid knowledge of the moral arguments concerning the six issues we will discuss. 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 assistants 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, and I think that the interest and importance of the issues we will be addressing will reward that participation, too.

What this course does not aim to do:

1. This course does not aim to provide pat answers to questions such as "Is human cloning morally permissible?" It is not a version of Sunday School. I don’t intend to preach, and if I get carried away, I hope you’ll jump on me. 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, and affirmative action, but it will not espouse 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 TAs. 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.


Xeroxed collection
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Course Web Site:

A variety of material, including the syllabus will also be available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/341/Fall2005/default.htm. Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via the Learn@UW web site: https://uwmad.courses.wisconsin.edu/.

Course Requirements:

There will be two essays, six 20-minute quizzes (of which only the five highest grades count), a final examination, homework assignments, and a web discussion requirement. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (50%), the quizzes (15%), the final (20%), the homework (10%), and the web discussion (5%).

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 coupled with regular attendance at both will also help to boost your semester grade. I welcome questions and comments during lecture.

QUIZZES These will be a mixture of short-answer and brief essays. They will take about 20 minutes each. Barring exceptional circumstances, make-ups will not be given, but your lowest score will not count. Each quiz will count for 3% of your semester grade.

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 5.

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 Friday, November 11. The term paper is due early in the semester in order to make it possible for you to rewrite it and to submit a revised version. The revised version will be due on Friday, December 9. 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 six 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 one homework assignment on the issue debated, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. See below for further information about the debates.

EXAMS The final examination will be cumulative, with some emphasis on surrogate motherhood and cloning, the two topics for which there will be no quizzes.

HOMEWORK There will be eleven homework assignments. The assignments will not be corrected -- only checked for completion of the assignment. I will comment on only selected papers. 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. Please note that homework assignments cannot be submitted via email, and the generous system of allowances for late homework is provided in lieu of keeping track of specific reasons why students may be unable to submit their homework on time. Homework should be submitted directly to me, not to the TAs. Please put the name of your TA and the day and time of your section on the front of your homework papers.

WEB DISCUSSION To encourage active involvement with the issues in the course, students are expected to join in discussion at the Learn@UW web site. Each student will be expected to post at least three questions and to respond to at least three questions posted by other members of the class. To make this manageable and constructive requires from you a good deal of skill and care. Detailed directions are found below and on the Learn@UW web page.

WARNING!! Philosophy challenges complacency. It is hard to know what the truth is concerning hard questions like the ones we will be addressing this semester.

Course Outline:

Friday, September 2: 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.

Wednesday, September 7:  Is morality a matter of opinion or social consensus?

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

Friday, September 9: Two crucial presuppositions and objections to them

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

Monday, September 12: On arguments and informal logic

D. Hausman, "Skill Sheet: Good and Bad Arguments"

Wednesday, September 14: 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

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.

Friday, September 16: Quiz #1 on Logic; discussion on objectivity in ethics

Monday, September 19: 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

Wednesday, September 21:  Does permitting or banning surrogate motherhood contracts increase individual freedom? Does either policy violate individual rights?

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

Friday, September 23: 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?

Katha Pollitt, "The Strange Case of Baby M"

Homework #2 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.

Monday, September 26: On the limits of contracts and of the natural rights

Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court

Wednesday, September 28:  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 (excerpts)
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"

Homework #3 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words presenting and criticizing the argument concerning abortion that you personally find most persuasive. The task is to try to lay bare, as far as possible, any weakness in your position.

Friday, September 30: 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"

Monday, October 3: On persons and humans

Roe v. Wade
Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

*Wednesday, October 5:  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"

Introductory paper due.

In "Is Women's Labor a Commodity?" which is included in the xeroxed reader, Elizabeth Anderson argues that commercial surrogacy treats child-bearing as if it were a service exchangeable on the market and thereby like a commodity. She maintains that in doing so it degrades women and is seriously wrong. The first section of her paper, pp. 70-75 develops her account of commodities, and then (after a discussion of the commodification of children on pp. 75-80, which you can skip) she argues on pp. 80-87 that commercial surrogacy commodifies women's labor. You can also omit the last section of the paper (pp. 88-92), which is devoted to exploring the policy consequences. Your task is to make clear Anderson's argument in the course of a paper that either develops a criticism of Anderson or defends or extends some part of her case.

Although there is no "formula" for writing the essay, one way to proceed is to begin by stating briefly what Anderson is up to, then developing with great care and precision the relevant part of her argument (possibly presenting a valid argument with numbered premises) and then arguing for what you want to say about her argument. Be careful that your presentation of Anderson's views is integrated into your argument rather than constituting a preface to it.

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.

Friday, October 7: 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"

Monday, October 10: Is it wrong to kill anything with a future like ours?

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"

Wednesday, October 12: If a fetus is a person does it follow that abortion ought to be illegal?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Friday, October 14:  Discussion:  What does Thomson prove? Is killing an innocent human being always impermissible?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"
Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: A Human Rights Approach"

Homework #4 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words contrasting Brody's example of the lifeboat to Thomson's example of the violinist. What do you think most people's intuitions would say about the two cases? Are these intuitions consistent? How can they be explained?

Monday, October 17: Abortion and the doctrine of double effect.

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

Wednesday, October 19:  Conclusions and Quiz #2 on abortion

Friday, October 21: Utilitarianism: What is it? What are its implications for abortion? What arguments are there for or against utilitarianism?

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"

Monday, October 24: 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 #5 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.

Wednesday, October 26:  Punishment and desert

James Fieser, "Capital Punishment"
John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules"

Friday, October 28: What is right about retributivism?

John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules"
Jeffrey Reiman, "Just Deserts and Just Punishments" from "Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty"

Monday, October 31: 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"

Homework #6 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words applying utilitarianism to either surrogate motherhood or to abortion. What position on the issue you pick does utilitarianism favor?

Wednesday, November 2: Conclusion on capital punishment

John Stuart Mill, "Speech in Favor of Capital Punishment"
Ernest van den Haag, "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense"

Friday, November 4: Quiz #3 and Introduction to On Liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 1 and start chapter 2

Monday, November 7: Liberty and free speech

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapters 2 and 3

Homework #7 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your interpretation of Mill's principle of liberty and stating what seems to you to be the most important arguments that support it or that should lead us to question it.

Wednesday, November 9: Mill's principle of liberty and the question of legal moralism

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 4

*Friday, November 11: Applications of the principle of liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 5.

Term Papers Due

In Peter McInerney's brief essay, "Does a Fetus Already Have a Future-like-ours?" (which is reproduced at the end of the course reader), the author argues that Don Marquis' argument fails because fetuses do not in the relevant sense "possess" a future like the future of an ordinary adult human being. In your term papers you should either develop and support McInerney's criticism of Marquis or defend Marquis form McInerney's criticism.

Be sure to think hard about objections to your what you are trying to establish and about how to respond to them. You can draw on other sources, but this is meant to be an analytical rather than a research paper.  If you do use any sources, be sure to document them.

Term papers should be about 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 McInerney's and Marquis' article or any of the assigned readings for the course, you must give references so that we can check them. Formal footnotes are not necessary. It is enough to put a reference such as "(McInerney, p. 266)" in the text. But specific references are not optional, and your grade will be lowered if references are missing. Missing references constitute plagiarism when they result in representing someone's words or thoughts as your own.

If you have trouble with your writing, I encourage you to seek help in the writing lab. The TAs 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 14: Quiz #4 on On Liberty and short debate on gay marriage: Resolved that the legal condition of marriage be limited to a relationship between one man and one woman.

James Q. Wilson, "Against Homosexual Marriage"
Richard Mohr, "The Case for Lesbian and Gay Marriage"
James Harold, "The Gay Marriage Controversy"
exchange between Stanley Kurtz and Jonathan Rauch (7 brief essays: "Love and Marriage," "Give Federalism a Chance," "Point of No Return," "Who's More Worthy?" "Listening Attentively," "Marriage for All," and "Radical Proposal"

Homework #8 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your initial view of whether it should be legal for two gay men or two gay women to marry.

Wednesday, November 16:  Mill's principle of liberty and the case for gay marriage

Richard Mohr, "The Case for Lesbian and Gay Marriage"
James Harold, "The Gay Marriage Controversy"
Kurtz-Rauch exchange

Friday, November 18: The limits of liberty and the case against gay marriage

James Q. Wilson, "Against Homosexual Marriage"
Kurtz-Rauch exchange

Monday, November 21: Conclusions on gay marriage and Quiz #5 on gay marriage

Wednesday, November 23: Debate #5: Resolved that pharmacists should have the right to refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs whose use they find offensive or immoral.

David Boaz and Judy Waxman, "Can Pharmacists Refuse to Fill Prescriptions?"
Dan Hausman and Michael McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
Ronald Dworkin, "Civil Disobedience and Nuclear Protest,"

Homework #9 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your initial view of whether pharmacists should be permitted to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives.

Monday, November 28: Pharmacists and the principles of civil disobedience

Ronald Dworkin, "Civil Disobedience and Nuclear Protest"

Wednesday, November 30:  Libertarianism and the duties of businesses

Dan Hausman and Michael McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
David Boaz and Judy Waxman, "Can Pharmacists Refuse to Fill Prescriptions?"

Friday, December 2: Conclusions on pharmacists and Quiz #6

Monday, December 5: Debate #6: Resolved that the reproductive cloning of human beings should be illegal.

Leon Kass, "The Wisdom of Repugnance"
Dan Brock "Cloning Human Beings: An Assessment of the Ethical Issues Pro and Con"
Jaime Ahlberg and Harry Brighouse, "An Argument Against Cloning"

Homework #10 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your initial view of whether it should be legal to clone human beings.

Wednesday, December 7: Kass' case against cloning

Leon Kass, "The Wisdom of Repugnance"

*Friday, December 9: Brock's assessments of the arguments pro and con

Dan Brock "Cloning Human Beings: An Assessment of the Ethical Issues Pro and Con"

Term Paper Revisions Due

Monday, December 12: A new argument against cloning and the limits of liberalism

Jaime Ahlberg and Harry Brighouse, "An Argument Against Cloning"

Homework #11 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.

*Wednesday, December 14: Conclusions

Print-outs of web postings due


At the beginning of the discussion of each of the six 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 the homework assignment concerned with the issue debated without having to hand it in, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. In the case of multiple homework assignments on an issue, debaters will receive credit for the first of the assignments. During the first lecture, I will ask for volunteers to participate in the first debate on surrogate motherhood. There should be three 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. 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.


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 comment on a random sample. (If there is a specific homework assignment of yours that you would like me to be sure to read, please write a note on the front of it.) Each assignment will be graded "pass" or "fail," and everyone who does what is assigned conscientiously can expect to pass. In the past, I have failed only a small number of the homework assignments, when they were too short or thoughtless or not on the assigned topic. You need to hand in only ten of the eleven homework assignments to get an A, though there is a bonus for handing in all 11. For my own curiosity, I hope that as many students as possible are able to hand in homework #11. Though there seems little reason to plagiarize homework assignments, it has happened; and the fact that the assignments do not receive letter grades does not make the offense less serious.

There are many homework assignments and many possible reasons why students may fail to hand them in on time, and we could wind up spending many unrewarding hours together keeping track of excuses. To simplify matters, homework will be counted as handed in on time if the total number of late classes (not days) during the semester is eight 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 3 classes late.) No homework will be accepted that is more than three classes 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 please discuss the problems with me. Specific excuses can be used only instead of, not in addition to the eight-class allowance. So there is no need to discuss the reasons why you are late handing in home work unless there have been serious problems, and you have excuses for more than eight classes. The system is set up to make it easy for those who do their homework to get an A. All homework must be in by the last class. Homework counts as 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 eight, you will lose one-half point for each late class. Remember that you need hand in only ten of the eleven assignments to get an A. The grading will be as follows:

number handed-in 11 10 9.5 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 < 7
grade A+ A AB B BC C D F F (0)
points 10 9.8 9.1 8.5 7.9 7.3 6.7 5.9 0


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. I shall interpret your choice of a seat near the back as a request to me to call on you in discussion.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, (Monday 10-11and Wednesday 1-2) 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 large class, it can get out of hand. The TA will have her own guidelines, which you should be careful to respect. With respect to communicating with me, feel free to email me at dhausman@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. Emails sent to me do not count toward the web discussion requirement unless you post them yourself.

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. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL.  It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted.

Grading Scheme:

I am planning on employing the on-line gradebook on the Learn@UW web site, despite problems with a previous version of the software, which have supposedly been fixed. The homework grades will show the number of late classes. So if you turn in homework number 1 and it is passing, there will be a "0" in the homework #1 (hw1) column. If a homework assignment fails, I will record an "X" instead. If your homework assignment is handed in two classes late, there will be a "2" in the column. For the graded assignments, I employ a point system; and even though the grades at the end of the semester are limited to A, AB, B, BC, C, D, and F, we will draw finer distinctions on particular assignments. Here is the point-to-grade conversion table we will use:

Grade A+ A A- AB B+ B B- BC C+ C C- D F
Percentage (points) 99-100 95-98 92-94 89-91 86-88 83-85 80-82 77-79 74-76 71-73 68-70 60-67 0-59

On assignments where we give you letter grades, such as papers, we will record the grade as the highest number in the range. So, for example, someone who gets a B+ on their term paper and does not hand in a revision will have 17.6 points in the tp (term paper) column and 17.6 points in the tpr (term paper revision) column, because 17.6 is 88% of 20 points. For another example, someone with a score of 84 on the first quiz will get 2.54 points toward their semester total (84% of the 3 points for the quiz). Assignments that are not completed will get zero points. The table for converting total points for the semester to final letter grades is given on the Learn@UW web site.

Web Discussions:

On the leaern@uw web page for this course, there is a "Discussion" tab at the top of the page. Clicking that tab, you will see three "forums": (1) "topics", (2) "exams", and (3) "papers". The last two are practical and potentially very useful to you, but the required contributions are for the topics forum. In that forum you will see a variety of topics -- each of the issues with which the course is concerned, as well as more specific topics that arise in the readings and lectures. Each of the topics has a closing date for discussion.

Your task is to post at least three questions and to post at least three responses to questions posted by others. At least one of your questions and one of your responses must be to a discussion topic that closes before the end of October. At least one of your questions and one of your responses must be to a topic that closes in November. And at least one of your questions and one of your responses must be to a topic that is open until the end of the course. You should not post to topics before we get to them. Discussion can continue past the closing dates, but not for credit.

Postings should be short and polished. There is a 75-word limit, and still briefer postings are preferrable. You should compose them on your own computer and revise them carefully before pasting them on to the discussion page. Style is very important on the postings. The clearer your questions and comments, the more useful and agreeable they will be for other members of the course. The TAs and I will grade your postings both for their content and for their style, and we will place considerable weight on style.

It ought to go without saying (though I am saying it anyway) that the same standards of etiquette, courtesy, willingness to listen to others, and kindness in both agreement and disagreement that apply to class discussion apply to discussion on the web.

On or before the last class, you should hand in a print-out of three of your question postings and three of your response postings. Please print directly from your browser (so that there is no question about the date when you posted and no lst-minute editng of what you posted earlier). In the case of response postings, please also print out the question or comment to which you responded.

Although the TAs and I may periodically read the web discussion and may even toss in a comment or two the web discussion is intended as a forum for the exchange of views among the students.

The Role of Readings in the Course:

Unlike some professors, I do not usually devote my lectures 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 cite and 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 may have a hard time understanding my arguments if you do not study the readings carefully. I selected the readings to represent a variety of different perspectives, and even when the readings 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 Writing 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 the assignments 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 Pollitt says that contracts are worthless, it should be clear on what page Pollitt 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 or shows. 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 Thomson 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. Please do not put section headings in your papers.

4. Avoid first paragraphs that say 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:

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

There are some excellent resources on the web for writing philosophy papers. I particularly recommend:

www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm This is brief, clear, and helpful.

http://www.princeton.edu/~jimpryor/general/writing.html Excellent, but much lengthier.

www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/philosophy.html For those who are serious about philosophy.

www.cofc.edu/~portmord/tips.htm Contains lots of references for further study.

A terrific general source on writing is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The first edition is available on the web at http://www.bartleby.com/141/

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.