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

TA: Justin Horn
5174 Helen C. White Hall
263-7599 horn2@wisc.edu

Office Hours:
Monday 12:00-1:00
Wednesday 1:00-2:00

Office Hours:
Monday 10:00-12:00

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 five controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) capital punishment, 4) gay marriage, and 5) euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide. 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 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 abortion, 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 "Should physician-assisted suicide be legal?" 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, gay marriage and euthanasia, 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/Spring2007/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, one quiz, one midterm, homework assignments, five-minute essays (attendance), and a final examination. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (50%), the quiz (5%), the midterm (10%), the final (20%), the homeworks (10%), and the five-minute essays (5%)

LECTURES AND DISCUSSION SECTIONS Attendance is technically optional, but the five minute essays provide you with a grade incentive (and reward) for regular attendance. 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 Wednesday, February 21.

TERM PAPER The term paper counts for 40% of your semester grade. It should be no more than 1800 words and the first draft is due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, April 11. The term paper is due fairly 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, May 4. 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 in selecting debaters, 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 additional homework assignment, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. See below for further information about the debates.

QUIZ There will be a quiz on logic and the first issue (surrogate motherhood) on Friday, February 16. It will count for 5% of the semester grade.

MIDTERM It will cover abortion, utilitarianism, and surrogate motherhood and will be held on Friday, March 23. It will count for 10% of your semester grade.

FINAL EXAMINATION The final examination will be cumulative, though it will emphasize material that comes after the midterm. 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. You have a choice between either providing excuses for late homeworks (which you should keep together and submit at the end of the semester) OR taking advantage of the generous system of allowances for late homework. 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 at least 15 of these, so that each will wind up counting for 1/3 of one percent of your semester grade or less. They are designed to provoke thought and encourage discussion, not to assess your mastery of the material. They count essentially as an attendance credit, and will not be returned to you. If you are absent for a five-minute essay, you can make up the credit by studying someone's notes for that class and writing a substantial precis of the missed lecture. Details are discussed later in the syllabus.

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:

Monday, January 22: 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, January 24:  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, January 26: Two crucial presuppositions and objections to them

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

Monday, January 29: On arguments and informal logic

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

Wednesday, January 31: Conclusions and discussion on logic and metaethics

Friday, February 2: 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.

Monday, February 5: 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, February 7:  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, February 9: 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, February 12: On the limits of contracts and of the natural rights

Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court

Wednesday, February 14:  Conclusions on surrogate motherhood

Friday, February 16:  Quiz on logic and surrogate motherhood; introduction to the abortion controversy

Monday, February 19: Debate #2: Resolved that abortion ought to be legal only in circumstances where continuing a pregnancy would lead to the death of the pregnant woman.

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.

*Wednesday, February 21: Kant on the foundations of morality 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"

Introductory paper due:

   One of the most compelling arguments in defense of treating surrogate motherhood contracts just like any other contract is the general view that individuals should be able to enter into any voluntary arrangements that they wish, and when they have committed themselves, then they are bound to comply with the terms they agreed to.  Yet, as Katha Pollitt points out, there are lots of contracts that the law either prevents individuals from making or that the law refuses to enforce.  Think about the examples she gives and then write an essay addressing the question of whether surrogate motherhood contracts should be treated like those arrangements Pollitt cites that are not legally enforceable, or whether surrogate motherhood contracts should be treated like ordinary contracts, such as those concerning the buying and selling of commodities.  Be sure to address Pollitt's arguments or analogies carefully and in detail and to be explicit about the principles you are relying on in reaching the conclusions that you do.  Don't forget that this is a moral question about what the law should be, not a question of legal interpretation about what the law is or a constitutional question about what laws are constitutional.  Be sure to write a unified essay and to make clear the logical structure of your argument and what your premises are.  You must defend the claims you make, and you should be careful to consider and to respond to objections that might be made to them.  Above all, make sure that your paper has a clear thesis and a tight logical organization.

   In making your argument you may draw upon any of the readings that are appropriate, but what is important in an essay is your argument.  An essay is not like an examination answer.  While you should not, of course, be ignorant of relevant material and cannot just ignore objections and counterarguments in the readings and lectures, the point is not to show what you've read or heard in class, but to make an honest and persuasive case.  You should believe in what you are writing.

Late papers will be penalized unless you speak with me before the 21st.  Papers should not be longer than three double-spaced typed pages (approximately 1000 words).  Papers must be typed or printed.

The point of the introductory paper assignment is, on the one hand, to enable you to have a try at writing an analytical paper and to learn what this course demands and, on the other hand, to enable us to get to know what you are able to do already and what you need to learn.  Do not be discouraged if the paper is difficult to write well.  After all, if you can already write a good analytical essay, then you have less to gain in this course. 

For further directions and hints on how to write the paper, see the general directions and hints on writing philosophy papers near the end of this syllabus.

Friday, February 23: 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, February 26: Persons and humans

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

Wednesday, February 28: 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"

Friday, March 2: What's wrong with killing a fetus?

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"

Monday, March 5: Is it wrong to kill anything with a future like ours?

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral"

Wednesday, March 7:  If a fetus is a person, does it follow that abortion ought to be illegal?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Friday, March 9: 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, March 12: Abortion and the doctrine of double effect.

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

Wednesday, March 14:  Conclusions on abortion

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

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"

Monday, March 19: 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, March 21: Punishment and desert

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

Friday, March 23: Midterm examination

Monday, March 26: 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, March 28: 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?

Friday, March 30: Conclusion on capital punishment

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

Monday, April 9: Catch-up day

*Wednesday, April 11:  Introduction to On Liberty

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

Term papers due:

When a fertilized egg first starts to divide, its properties are very different from the properties of cells in adult human beings. In particular, (1) if the cells that make up an early embryo are separated from one another, they can each develop into a baby. (This is what happens in the case of identical twins.) In addition (2) genetically distinct fertilized eggs can grow together into a single fetus. (In a recent case, a woman in England was prosecuted for welfare fraud on the grounds that genetic tests showed that the children she claimed were hers were not genetically related to her. The case was dropped when she gave birth to a newborn that was also found not to be genetically related to her! Further investigation showed that some of her organs, including her ovaries, trace back to one fertilized egg, while most of her body including the portions from which DNA samples were taken, trace back to another. No one knows how common such so called "chimera" are.) A third fact about early embryos is that many of them fail to develop normally, and a large percentage, probably a majority, miscarry.

Write an essay discussing the relevance (or irrelevance) of these facts to the question of whether abortion should be legal. Be sure to draw on the course readings and lectures where relevant and to write a well-organized and clearly-argued paper with a definite, clear, and substantive thesis.

Be sure to think hard about objections to 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 "(Warren, 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.

Friday, April 13: Liberty and free speech

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 2

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.

Monday, April 16: Individuality and Mill's argument for the principle of liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 3

Wednesday, April 18: Mill's principle of liberty and the question of legal moralism

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 4

Friday, April 20: Applications of the principle of liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 5.

Monday, April 23:  Debate: 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, April 25: 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, April 27: The limits of liberty and the case against gay marriage

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

Monday, April 30: Movie: Dax's Case

Wednesday, May 2: Debate #5: Resolved that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide should be legal.

James Rachels, "Active and Passive Euthanasia"
Thomas Sullivan, "Active and Passive Euthanasia: An Impertinent Distinction?"
James Rachels, "More Impertinent Distinctions"
Ezekiel Emanuel, What Is the Great Benefit of Legalizing Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide?

Homework #9 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your view of whether Dax should have been allowed to refuse treatment and why.

*Friday, May 4: Active versus passive euthanasia

James Rachels, "Active and Passive Euthanasia"

Term paper revisions due. If you decide to revise your term paper, be sure to hand in the original along with the revised version. In addition a brief description of how you revised your paper is required. Only substantial revisions will be graded.

Monday, May 7: The doctrine of double-effect and extraordinary means

Thomas Sullivan, "Active and Passive Euthanasia: An Impertinent Distinction?"
James Rachels, "More Impertinent Distinctions"

Homework #10 due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your view of whether you think that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide should be legal. Develop your reasons and consider objections to your arguments.

Wednesday, May 9: Can one make any sense of current law and practice?

Ezekiel Emanuel, What Is the Great Benefit of Legalizing Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide?

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.

Friday, May 11: Conclusions and Review


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 first homework assignment concerned with the issue debated without having to hand it in, provided that they do a competent job in the debate. Debaters will also receive a second homework credit that I will apply at the end of the semester in whatever way is most advantageous to the student. 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 four classes late.

This system is intended as a substitute for keeping track of excuses why your homework was late, but if you prefer, you can give me specific excuses for specific absences. Specific excuses can be used only instead of, not in addition to the eight-class allowance. (In nearly 20 years of teaching, I know of only one student for whom it was advantageous to keep track of specific excuses rather than to make use of the 8-class allowance.) So there is no need to discuss the reasons why you are late handing in homework unless you have excuses for missing 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

Five-Minute Essays:

By distributing to you brief and often provocative questions and giving you five minutes to jot down your thoughts, these assignments encourage more active and thoughtful discussion. I do not appraise your five-minute essays, but I do note whether you've completed them or not, and in that way you get credit for course attendance. At the end of the semester I will take the 5% credit for the five-minute essays and divide by the number of five-minute essays distributed during the semester in order to determine the point value of each assignment. Suppose, for example, there were 20 five-minute essays. Then each one would count for .25%, and if a student happened to complete 17 five-minute essays and did not make up any of them, he or she would receive 4.25 out of 5 points for the five-minute essays.

If you are not present when a five-minute essay is distributed (as is sometimes unavoidable), there is a way to do a make-up. It is not necessary to notify the instructor of your absences or to explain the reasons. What you need to do is to get hold of the lecture notes of another student in the course and complete the following form:


Missed lecture make-up form:


Name of student whose notes were used:

Date of the lecture:

Topic of the lecture:

Readings discussed:

Precis of the lecture, including careful presentation of any explicitly formulated argument.


The precis must be at least 350 words, and it must be accurate in its spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The completed misssed lecture make-up form should be pasted into an email message (NO ATTACHMENTS) and sent to the instructor (dhausman@wisc.edu), not to the TA. Missed-lecture make-ups are due within two weeks of the date of the missed lecture, but not after the last day of class. Papers that are late, that have significant problems with their writing, spelling, grammar or punctuation, that do not cover the material addressed in the missed lecture, or that are shorter than 350 words will not receive credit.


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. (By the way, one consistent finding of social scientists is that there is a clear correlation between how close to the front students sit and how high their grades are.)

Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Monday 12-1 and 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 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 substance, assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I will post them anonymously 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. 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?" Also, please do not email me or the TA to ask when five-minute essays were distributed. You should instead get to know other students in the class whose notes you can consult if you are unable to attend. some questions are of course better discussed in person than over email. I’ll do the best I can to be helpful.

A Note on Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me or with your TA. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. 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 continuing problems with this buggy software. 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 quiz will get 4.2 points toward their semester total (84% of the 5 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.

The column labeled "miss-dates-5" will list dates for which 5-minute essays are missing. I will update this column only about once a month.

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.