Dan Hausman
5197 Helen C. White Hall
263-5178

Teaching Assistant: Bekka Williams
5164 Helen C. White Hall; phone # 263-1630

dhausman@wisc.edu

Office Hours:
Tuesday 2:20-3:30
Thursday 11:00-12:00

rlwilliams1 Office Hours:
Monday 12:00-1:00
Thursday 3:00-4:00

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 four controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) affirmative action and 4) capital punishment. 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 surrogate motherhood, abortion, capital punishment, and affirmative action. 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 affirmative action morally permissible?" It is not a version of Sunday School. I donít intend to preach, and if I get carried away, I hope youíll 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, affirmative action, and capital punishment, 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 TA. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact James Anderson, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.
Texts:

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

Both will be on sale at the Underground Textbook Exchange located at 664 State Street and on reserve in the College Library.


Course Web Site:

A variety of material, including the syllabus and some other materials in the xeroxed collection will also be available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/341/Spring2005/341-Spring2005.htm. Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via Learn@UW (https://uwmad.courses.wisconsin.edu/). I will typically post anonymously student questions and coments that are emailed to me, along with my responses.


Course Requirements:

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

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

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 Thursday, February 17.

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 Thursday, April 7. The term paper is due relatively 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 Tuesday, May 3. 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 four issues with which this course is concerned with a debate on that issue. Each debate except the first will be the responsibility of one of the sections, and we will poll sections to find out which issues students in each section prefer to debate. Because of time constraints, I will ask for volunteers to participate in the first debate. Those who actually participate in the debates will receive credit for two homework assignments on the issue debated, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. See below for further information about the debates.

EXAMS There will be two midterm examinations, on Thursday, February 10 and Tuesday, April 12, as well as a final examination during the scheduled examination period. Each midterm will count for 10% of the semester grade. Part of the examinations will be in essay format. The exams will test your ability to apply the skills and arguments with which the course is concerned. Although the final examination will be cumulative, it will focus on the last third of the course.

HOMEWORK There will be frequent homework assignments. The assignments will not be corrected -- only checked for completion of the assignment. I will comment substantively on a fraction of the 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.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS These will be posted regularly on the web, and they will reappear as essay questions on the examinations.


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

Tuesday, January 18: 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.


Thursday, January 20: Is morality a matter of opinion or social consensus?

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


Tuesday, January 25: On arguments and informal logic

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


Thursday, January 27: 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.


Tuesday, February 1: 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? Does permitting or banning surrogate motherhood contracts increase individual freedom? Does either policy violate individual rights?

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


Thursday, February 3: 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"
Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court

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.


Tuesday, February 8: On the limits of contracts and of the natural rights--conclusions on surrogate motherhood


Thursday, February 10: Midterm #1 on logic and surrogate motherhood


Tuesday, February 15: Debate #2: Resolved that abortion ought to be legal only in circumstances where continuing a pregnancy would lead to the death of the mother.

Roe v. Wade
Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"
Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"
Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"
Baruch Brody, "Opposition to Abortion: A Human Rights Approach"
Immanuel Kant, "The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals"

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.


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

Introductory paper due.

Write an essay of no more than 1000 words that (a) identifies some relatively specific point of disagreement between Katha Pollitt and Judge Sorkow for which both Pollitt and Sorkow make arguments, (b) clarifies their conflicting arguments and the basis of their disagreement and (c) determines who is right -- if either is (they might both be wrong). Be sure to argue for your conclusions. Your task is to write a unified essay, not an answer to an examination question, so don't conceive of your task as writing separate answers to (a), (b), and (c). The challenge is to pull together your presentation and assessment of their contrasting views into an essay that hangs together.

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.


Tuesday, February 22: 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"


Thursday, February 24: 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"

Homework #4 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words explaining why it is confusing and misleading to debate the question of whether or when a fetus is human. How should the question be phrased? Why?


Tuesday, March 1: If a fetus is a person does it follow that abortion ought to be illegal?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"


Thursday March 3: Is killing an innocent human being always impermissible? Abortion and the doctrine of double effect.

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

Homework #5 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?


Tuesday, March 8: Conclusions on abortion and introduction to utilitarianism

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"


Thursday, March 10: 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 #6 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.


Tuesday, March 15: Punishment and desert

James Fieser, "Capital Punishment"
John Rawls, "Two Concepts of Rules"
Jeffrey Reiman, "Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty"

Homework #7 due: In two or three hundred words, try to explain what it means to say that someone who commits murder deserves death and how we can tell whether this claim is true. (Warning: this is a hard assignment! The readings will help you to answer it.)


Thursday, March 17: 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"


Tuesday, March 29: 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"


Thursday, March 31: Conclusions on Capital Punishment


Tuesday, April 5: Debate: Resolved that affirmative action whereby African Americans are given preferential treatment in educational admissions and hiring is morally permissible.

Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart" AA, pp. 34-55.
Lyndon Johnson "To Fulfill These Rights: Commencement Address at Howard University" AA, pp. 56-63.
Ward Connerly, "The Sweet Music of Equal Treatment" AA, pp. 64-69.
Richard Wasserstrom, "A Defense of Programs of Preferential Treatment," AA, 198-204.
D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
Robert Fullinwider, "The Case for Reparations" (xerox)  http://www.puaf.umd.edu/IPPP/Summer00/case_for_reparations.htm
David Horowitz, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too"
http://www.frontpagemag.com/horowitzsnotepad/2001/hn01-03-01.htm
George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.
Michael Levin, "Is Racial Discrimination Special?" AA, 214-26.
Louis Pojman, "The Moral Status of Affirmative Action," AA, 175-97.
Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action" (xerox)

Homework #8 Due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your "initial" view of whether affirmative action programs are morally permissible. Give what seems to you to be the strongest argument in support of your initial view and try to make the argument as clear and logical as possible. Explain what reservations one might have concerning your argument and your position.


Thursday, April 7: Affirmative Action: Introduction, historical background, and main arguments

Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart" AA, pp. 34-55.
Lyndon Johnson "To Fulfill These Rights: Commencement Address at Howard University" AA, pp. 56-63.
Ward Connerly, "The Sweet Music of Equal Treatment" AA, pp. 64-69.

Term Paper Due:

Read "Concerning Abortion: An Attempt at a Rational View" (reprinted at the end of the course reader) and write an essay analyzing and assessing one of Hartshorne's arguments as either an answer to an argument in the assigned readings on abortion or as supporting or restating one of the arguments in the assigned readings on abortion.

Your essay should have a definite and substantial thesis, and it should be logically organized as an argument for your thesis. Be sure that your exposition of Hartshorne's views is integrated into your argument rather than as functioning as a preface to your argument or a digression from it. Be sure to think hard about objections to your point of view and about how to respond to them. You can draw on other sources, but this is meant to be an analytical rather than a research paper.

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 Hartshorne's 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 "(Hartshorne, p. 97)" in the text. But references are not optional, and your grade will be lowered if references are missing.

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

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


Tuesday, April 12: Midterm #2


Thursday, April 14: Is discrimination ever morally permissible?

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

Homework 9:  Ward Connerly quotes the following passage from UC Berkeleyís Daily Californian "Race-based affirmative action is wrong because it discriminates on the basis of race. For three decades, such discriminatory policies have been embraced with the hope that they would reverse the effects of centuries of racism....But the ends of social policy do not justify the means." (AA, pp. 65-66) Analyze this criticism of affirmative action. What is meant by "discrimination," and why is discrimination wrong? How strong an argument is this against affirmative action? Write a 300-500 word essay developing your answers to these questions.


Tuesday, April 19: Libertarianism and affirmative action: the compensation argument

D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.


Thursday, April 21: Compensation and Reparations

Robert Fullinwider, "The Case for Reparations" (xerox)
David Horowitz, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too"

Homework #10 due:

As you may know, students on this campus and on several others protested the running of Horowitz's advertisement, and in some cases they confiscated the newspapers to prevent their distribution. Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words discussing whether these protests and the seizure of the papers were justified.


Tuesday, April 26: The compensation argument for affirmative action:

George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.
Michael Levin, "Is Racial Discrimination Special?" AA, 214-26.


Thursday, April 28: Equal Opportunity, Individual Responsibility, and Affirmative Action

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

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.


Tuesday, May 3: Affirmative Action: An assessment of its consequences

Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action" (xerox)

Optional Revision of Term Paper Due

You must submit the original paper along with the revision and an explanation (no more than one page) of how you revised your essay. Only significant revisions will be graded. Revisions that merely fix some copy-editing will not be graded.


Thursday, May 5:  Summary and Review


Debates:

At the beginning of the discussion of each of the four issues with which the course in concerned, there will a debate on a specific resolution concerning the issue. One section will be responsible for each of the issues except the first, and we will do our best to satisfy the debate preferences of the sections. To compensate participants in the debates for their efforts, they will receive credit for two of the homework assignments concerned with the issue debated without having to hand them in, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. So debaters on surrogate motherhood will receive credit for homework #1 and #2; those on abortion will receive credit for homework #3 and #4; those debating capital punishment will receive credit for homework #6 and #7; and those on affirmative actionwill receive credit for homework #8 and #9. During the first lecture, I will ask for volunteers to participate in the first debate on surrogate motherhood. There should be at least three and no more than five debaters on each side. The members of the discussion section responsible for the given issue are required to read ahead, so that during the section meeting before the debate they can thrash through the issues, and select section members to present the arguments pro and con that come up in the reading and discussion. The debate team members will need to decide how to divide up and organize their presentation. 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. Each assignment will be graded "pass" or "fail," and everyone who does what is assigned conscientiously can expect to pass. The last semester that I taught 341, I failed only a small number of the homework assignments handed in, 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. 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.  If you plagiarize a homework assignment, you can expect minimally to fail the homework part of 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 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 six or less. (For example, your homework would count as on time if your 2nd assignment were 2 classes late, your 5th were 3 classes late, and your 6th were 1 class late.) This system is intended as a substitute for keeping track of excuses why your homework was late. If there is some reason why your homework is still later (as, for example, serious medical problems), then please discuss the problems with me. Specific excuses can be used only instead of, not in addition to the six-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 six 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 one class late if it is not handed in before or during class on the assigned date. Homework may not be submitted via email.

If the total number of late classes is more than six, you will lose one-half point for each late class. Remember that you need hand in only ten of the eleven assignments. The grading will be as follows: 10 = A, 9.5 = AB, 9 = B, 8.5 = BC, 8 = C, 7.5 = D, 7 or below failing.


Discussions:

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


Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Tuesday 2:20-3:20 and Thursday 11:00-12:00) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet. My job is to help you to master the skills and material with which this course is concerned, so feel free to come see me.


The Use of Email:

Email can be a great convenience, but in a class of 100 students, it can get out of hand. TAs develop their 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, youíve 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?" or "When is the term paper due?" And some questions are better discussed in person than over email. Iíll do the best I can to be helpful.


A Note on Plagiarism:

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


The role of the readings in the course:

Unlike some professors, I do not 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 sometimes 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 many 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 Paper:

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

4. Avoid first paragraphs that 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.


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.