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

Ed Ellesson
5146 HC White; 263-6149
ellesson@wisc.edu

Office Hours:
Wednesday 9:50-10:50
Friday 12-1

Office Hours: M 11-12; F 10-11

Philosophy 341 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.

This course will give us the opportunity to think deeply about five controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) capital punishment, 4) gay marriage, 5) 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. We will also devote the last week of class to an additional currently controversial issue, which you will get to choose.


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 five 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 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, 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, cloning and same-sex marriage, 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.
Texts:

Xeroxed collection
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Both are available at the Underground Textbook Exchange, which is temporarily located in the basement of The Varsity building (401 N. Lake St.) on the Northeast corner of Lake St. and University Ave


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/Fall2006/341-Fall2006.htm.
Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via the Learn@UW web site: https://learnuw.wisc.edu/.


Course Requirements:

There will be two essays, two midterms, homework assignments, five-minute essays and a final examination. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (50%), the midterms (15%), the final (20%), the homeworks (10%), and the five-minute essays (5%)

LECTURES AND DISCUSSION SECTIONS Attendance is technically optional, but since there will be a large number of five-minute essays, frequent absences will lower your grade.  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.

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 Friday, October 6.

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 Monday, November 13. 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. 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 the initial homework assignment on the issue debated and on one other homework assignment of their choice, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. See below for further information about the debates.

MIDTERMS There will be two. The first will count for 5% of your semester grade, and the second for 10%. The questions will be a mix of short answer and essay.

FINAL EXAMINATION The final examination will be cumulative, though it will emphasize material that is not covered by either of the midterms. It will involve both short-answer and essay questions.

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 day and time of your section on the front of your homework papers.

FIVE-MINUTE ESSAYS There will be a large number of these, each of which will count for 1/5 of one percent of your semester grade. They are designed to provoke thought and encourage discussion, not for assessment.


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:
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.
Friday, September 8:  Is morality a matter of opinion or social consensus?

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


Monday, September 11: Two crucial presuppositions and objections to them

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


Wednesday, September 13: On arguments and informal logic

D. Hausman, "Skill Sheet: Good and Bad Arguments"
http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/341/skill_sheet1.htm


Friday, September 15: Discussion on (1) logic, (2) objectivity in ethics, and (3) what the final issue in the course should be

Homework #1 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words (one or two typed pages--but it doesn't have to be typed) in which you propose a contemporary moral issue for the class to discuss during the last week of the semester. Explain (1) what is at issue, (2) what are the main contending positions, and (3) why the issue is important. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


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

Homework #2 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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Wednesday, September 20: 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


Friday, September 22:  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


Monday, September 25: 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 #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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.

Formulate this argument as logically valid and discuss whether it is sound. This homework assignment provides useful practice on the skills you will need to do well on the introductory paper.


Wednesday, September 27: On the limits of contracts and of the natural rights

Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court


Friday, September 29:  Midterm #1: Logic and Surrogate Motherhood
Monday, October 2: 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 #4 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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Wednesday, October 4: Utilitarianism: What is it? What arguments are there for or against utilitarianism?

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"


Friday, October 6:  Punishment and desert

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

Introductory paper due.

In "The Strange Case of Baby-M," Katha Pollitt writes: "Well, you say, suppose we decided that contract motherhood wasn't prostitution or baby selling but some other, not flatly illegal, transaction: sale of parental rights to the father or some such. Then a deal would be a deal, right? Wrong. As anyone who has ever shopped for a co-op apart­ment in New York City knows, in the world of commerce, legal agreements are abrogated, modified, renegotiated and bought out all the time. What happens when contracts aren't fulfilled is what most of contract law is about."

Your task in this paper is to figure out what her argument is in this passage, to reformulate it so as to make clear its premises and conclusion, and to assess its validity, soundness and persuasiveness. Be sure that your essay has a definite thesis (concerning Pollitt's argument, not whether surrogate motherhood is a good thing or whether surrogate motherhood contracts should be legally enforceable) and that your essay is organized as an argument for that thesis.

The introductory paper should be no more than 1000 words in length. It should be printed double-spaced with good-sized margins and a reasonably large-sized font. The papers should be correct in their spelling and grammar. Late papers will be penalized unless you get an extension before the date that the paper is due.


Monday, October 9:  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"


Wednesday, October 11: 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"


Friday, October 13: Conclusion on capital punishment

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


Monday, October 16:  Introduction to On Liberty

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


Wednesday, October 18: Liberty and free speech

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 2


Friday, October 20:  Individuality and its role in Mill's argument for his principle of liberty.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 3

Homework #5 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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Monday, October 23: Mill's principle of liberty and the question of legal moralism

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 4


Wednesday, October 25: Applications of the principle of liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 5.


Friday, October 27:  Debate on same-sex 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 #6 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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Monday, October 30: 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


Wednesday, November 1: The limits of liberty and the case against gay marriage

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


Friday, November 3:  Midterm #2: Utilitarianism, capital punishment, On Liberty, and same-sex marriage
Monday, November 6: Debate #4: 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 #7 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your initial view of whether it should be legal to clone human beings. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Wednesday, November 8: Kass' case against cloning (I): What's so repugnant about cloning?
Friday, November 10: Kass' case against cloning (II): Specific arguments

Leon Kass, "The Wisdom of Repugnance"


*Monday, November 13: Brock's assessments of the arguments pro and con

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

Term Papers Due

In his brief comment "Sentenced," which is reprinted at the end of the course reader, Hendrik Hertzberg discusses the sentencing decision in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, an Al Qaeda member who was a arrested a month before the 9/11 attacks. In the comment, Hertzberg intersperses remarks on the death penalty with political observations. Your task in your term paper is to comment on the points he makes in the light of the readings assigned on capital punishment. You might want to support or contest a particular point that Hertzberg makes by making use of the more careful and extensive arguments in the readings, or you might want to draw on Hertzberg and some of the course readings to support or contest a point made in another course reading. It is up to you to define a specific topic and to decide exactly what conclusion you want to defend and how you want to defend it. Hertzberg's remarks should play some role in your essay, but they need not be its central focus.

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 additional 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, you must give references so that we can check them. Formal footnotes are not necessary. It is enough to put a reference such as "(Mill, 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 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.

By the way, Hertzberg is unclear or deceptive about one aspect of the sentencing decision. The punishment of execution could only be imposed if the jury was unanimous. Otherwise the sentence was life in prison. As it happens, Moussaoui got life in prison owing to a single juror who refused to vote for execution.


Wednesday, November 15: Conclusion on cloning; Introduction to Kant
Friday, November 17:  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, November 20: 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 #8 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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Wednesday, November 22: On persons and humans

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


Monday, November 27: 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"


Wednesday, November 29: 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"


Friday, December 1:  Is it wrong to kill anything with a future like ours?

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"


Monday, December 4: If a fetus is a person does it follow that abortion ought to be illegal?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"


Wednesday, December 6: 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 #9 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? Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


*Friday, December 8: Abortion and the doctrine of double effect.

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

Term Paper Revisions Due
*Monday, December 11: First class on issue to be chosen by the class

Homework #10 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words in which you present your initial view of the issue will be discussing this week. Present the strongest arguments you can for your position and consider what weaknesses they may have. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


*Wednesday, December 13: Second class on issue to be chosen by the class

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. Please write the day and time of your section on the front of your homework.


Friday, December 15: Conclusions
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 the homework assignment due the day of the debate and for one other homework assignment of their choice, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. 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.


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 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 small 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: students who have plagiarized homeworks have in some cases failed the course.

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.) In addition, 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 or four not being able to hand in an assignment less than four classes late. Barring exceptional circumstances, nobody should need to explain to me why homeworks were late. 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 handed in after class on a given date will count as handed in by the next class. Homework may not be submitted via email. Please submit your homework to me, not to the TA.

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:

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 9:50-10:50 and Wednesday 2-3) 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 of students, it can get out of hand. The TA will have his 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 bizarre, annoying, and ridiculous problems with previous versions of the software, which have supposedly been fixed. (Ha!) Apart from the homeworks, where the numbers indicate the number of late classes (which means that "0" is best), grades will be recorded in points that will be added up to constitute your semester grade. Assignments that have not yet been graded do not of course have any points, and so the gradebook (unhelpfully) records those grades an "F's."

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 conversion table we will use so as to record your letter grades on assignments as point grades:

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. Assignments that are not completed will get zero points. The conversion from total points for the semester to final letter grades is as follows:

Total points 92 and above 86-91.99 80-85.99 74-79.99 68-73.99 60-67.99 below 60
Semester grade A AB B BC C D F

This system contains a hidden grade boost. Suppose, for example, that you got an A- on half the assignments of the semester and an AB on the other half. One might think that these should average to an AB. But these would average to .5(94 + 91) = 92.5, which on the scale used to convert back to letter grades at the end of the semester is an A.


The role of the 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 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 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.