Dan Hausman
5197 H. C. White Hall
cell phone: 354-6120     


Jordan Rogers

Office Hours:
Tuesday 1:00-2:00
Wednesday 1:30-2:30

Office Hours: TBA

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 four controversial and difficult moral issues: 1) surrogate motherhood, 2) abortion, 3) capital punishment, and 4) affirmative action. 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 don’t intend to preach, and if I get carried away, I hope you’ll jump on me. I have my own views concerning the issues, and in some cases, I feel confident that I've got some good answers. Yet I shall not be concerned to convert anybody. What is important in the course is conviction, intellectual honesty, and the sort of perseverance that makes one struggle to bring one's convictions and the weight of argument into accord. The course should help you rationally to make up your minds concerning surrogate motherhood, abortion, capital punishment, and affirmative action, but it will not espouse a set of "correct" positions.

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

Note: Students are encouraged to discuss problems concerning the teaching of this course with the instructor and/or the 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.


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/Spring2010/341-Spring2010.htm. Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via Learn@UW.

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 (25%), the homeworks (10%), and the five-minute essays (extra credit)

LECTURES AND DISCUSSION SECTIONS Attendance is technically optional, but the five minute essays provide you with a grade incentive 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. A first version is due promptly at the beginning of class on Tuesday, February 9, and a revised version is due one week later, Tuesday, February 16. The first version will not be graded, but if it is not handed in on time, your grade on the introductory paper will be reduced by one full letter grade.

TERM PAPER The term paper counts for 40% of your semester grade. It should be no more than 1800 words. A rough draft is due at the beginning of class on Thursday, March 25, and a polished version on Thursday, April 8. The rough draft will not be graded, but your grade on the term paper will be reduced by one full letter grade if the rough draft is not completed on time (unless you have received an extension). 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 optional revised version will be due on Tuesday, 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 four issues with which this course is concerned with a debate on that issue. Provided that they do a competent job, those who actually participate in the debates will receive credit for the initial homework assignment on the issue debated and two points (percent) of extra credit on their final course grade.

QUIZ There will be a quiz on logic and on the first issue (surrogate motherhood) on Thursday, February 11. It will count for 5% of the semester grade.

MIDTERM It will cover abortion and surrogate motherhood and will be held on Thursday, March 11. It will count for 10% of your semester grade.

FINAL EXAMINATION The final examination, which counts for 25% of the semester grade, will be cumulative, though it will emphasize material that comes after the midterm. It will involve both short-answer and essay questions.



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

Course Outline:

Tuesday, January 19: 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 21: Is morality a matter of opinion or social consensus?

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

Tuesday, January 26: On arguments and informal logic

Steven Pinker, "The Moral Instinct"
D. Hausman,   "Skill Sheet: Good and Bad Arguments"

Thursday, January 28: 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 2 : 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 4 : 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 9 : On the limits of contracts and of natural rights--conclusions on surrogate motherhood

First version of introductory paper is due

Katha Pollitt writes the following:

"But money does change hands, and everybody, male and female, needs to be protected by law from the power of money to coerce or entice people to do things that seriously compromlse their basic and most intimate rights, such as the right to health or life. You can sell your blood, but you can't sell your kidney. In fact, you can't even donate your kidney except under the most limited circum­stances, no matter how fiercely you believe that this is the way you were meant to serve your fellow man and no matter how healthy you are. The risk of coercion is simply too great, and your kidney just too irreplaceable."

These comments are supposed to form part of a specific argument against permitting commercial surrogacy contracts. Reconstruct that argument as carefully as you can. (In your essay, you can present the reconstruction in the form of a valid argument with numbered premises and a conclusion or in the prose equivalent.) After having reconstructed the argument, discuss whether it is sound.

The thesis of your paper will consist of the conclusion to your argument concerning the structure and soundness of Pollit's argument. 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 or your TA before the due date.  Papers should not be longer than three double-spaced typed pages (approximately 700-800 words).  Papers must be typed or printed. Please do not use binders of any kind.

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.  In our meeting we will go over formal details concerning paper writing as well as the substantive issues with which the course is concerned.

There are no formula for writing good essays. One logical way to proceed would be to start by raising the issue, providing the context for the quotation above, reproducing the quotation and raising the question of whether Pollitt is making a sound argument, stating your thesis, proceeding to the reformulation and assessment. But this is just one of many ways to proceed.

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.

You have until next Tuesday (February 16) to revise and improve your essay. If you discuss your essay with a classmate, be sure to acknowledge any help you've received when you hand in the revised version. You do not need to change the version you hand in today, but you have the opportunity to improve the paper before the TAs and I grade it.

Thursday, February 11: Quiz on logic and surrogate motherhood

*Tuesday, February 16: 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
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"

Polished version of introductory paper due.

*Thursday, February 18: 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 MoralsRoe v. Wade
Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

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.

Tuesday, February 23: 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 25: 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 or whether or when a fetus is living. How should the question be phrased? Why?

Tuesday, March 2 : If a fetus is a person does it follow that abortion ought to be illegal?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Thursday, March 4 : 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 9 : Conclusions on abortion

Thursday, March 11: Midterm examination

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

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"

Homework #6 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words applying utilitarianism to either the question of whether surrogate motherhood contracts should be legally enforceable or whether abortion should be legal.

Thursday, March 18: 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"

Tuesday, March 23 : Punishment and desert

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

Homework #7 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.

*Thursday, March 25: 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"

Rough Draft of Term Paper Due:

A simple version of a pro-life argument goes as follows: (1) It is wrong and ought to be illegal to kill innocent human beings. (2) Fetuses are innocent human beings. Therefore (3) It is wrong and ought to be illegal to kill fetuses. Mary Anne Warren objects that "human beings" is being used as a synonym for "persons" or "members of the moral community" in premise one and in a biological sense in premise 2. If we stick to a biological sense, Warren argues that premise 1 begs the question. Something needs to be said about why "whatever is genetically human is also morally human." As Warren and Marquis argue (and as I also argued in lecture), what species a living thing belongs to is in itself of no moral importance. If we instead focus on properties that do appear to be morally relevant to rights, such as cognitive abilities, then there appears to be no case for attributing rights to fetuses, at least early in pregnancy. But if we focus on cognitive abilities, there also appears to be no case against killing human beings with extremely severe cognitive deficiencies -- which seems unacceptable.

Marquis presents one approach that someone who is pro-life can use to avoid these problems. On p. 32 of the selection reproduced at the end of the course reader, Michael Tooley presents a second way to avoid these problems (which he goes on to criticize). Your task in your term paper is (a) to clarify the difficulties for those who are pro-life in relying on premise (1) above and the difficulties for those who are pro-choice in tying rights to cognitive abilities, (b) to compare Marquis' way of avoiding these difficulties to the approach taken in the argument Tooley presents and criticizes, and (c) to defend your conclusions concerning the prospects of developing a sound argument for the prima facie wrongness of killing fetuses. As you know from lecture and the arguments presented by Brody and Thomson, even if one grants that fetuses have a right to life or that it is prima facie just as wrong to kill fetuses as adult human beings, there are further questions to be addressed concerning how to balance those rights against the rights of pregnant women. Those further difficulties are not relevant to this paper assignment.

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 Marquis' and Tooley'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.

I will not discuss Tooley's remarks in lecture, and they will not be discussed in section. Part of the paper assignment involves your own study and mastery of Tooley's arguments.

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 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 "(Tooley, p. ..)" 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 6: 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, April 8 : Debate: Resolved that affirmative action whereby African Americans are given preferential treatment in educational admissions and hiring is morally permissible.

Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart" AA, pp. 34-55.
Lyndon Johnson "To Fulfill These Rights: Commencement Address at Howard University" AA, pp. 56-63.
Ward Connerly, "The Sweet Music of Equal Treatment" AA, pp. 64-69.
Ronald Dworkin, "The DeFunis Case: The Right to Go to Law School," AA, pp. 70-89.
Richard Wasserstrom, "A Defense of Programs of Preferential Treatment," AA, 198-204.
D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
Robert Fullinwider, "The Case for Reparations" (xerox)
David Horowitz, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too"
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)

Polished Version of Term Paper Due

Tuesday, April 13: Affirmative Action: Introduction.

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.

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 15: Is discrimination ever morally permissible?

Ronald Dworkin, "The DeFunis Case: The Right to Go to Law School," AA, pp. 70-89.
Richard Wasserstrom, "A Defense of Programs of Preferential Treatment," AA, 198-204.

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

Tuesday, April 20: 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 22: 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: Consider the following objection to reparations for the injustices of slavery. "Reparations are irrational because they demand that people who are entirely innocent of the injustices compensate people who are not victims of the injustices." How, if at all, can a defender of reparations respond to this objection?

Tuesday, April 27: 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 29 : 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 4 : 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 6: Conclusions and Review


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. Provided that they do a competent job in the debate, participants will receive credit for the first homework assignment concerned with the issue debated without having to hand it in, and debaters will also receive a two-point (percent) final grade bonus. 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. 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.


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 (toward semester grade) 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.




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 arguments. Note that a precis is an essay, not a set of notes or an outline.



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, (Tuesdays 1:00-2:00 and Wednesdays 1:30-2:30) 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 your 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 some continuing problems with this software.

Grade A+ A A- AB B+ B B- BC C+ C C- D F
Percentage (points) 98-100 95-97 92-94 89-91 86-88 83-85 80-82 77-79 74-76 71-73 68-70 60-67 0-59
Points below 60 60-68.9 69-74.9 75-80.9 81-86.9 87-92.9 93 and above
Semester Grade F D C BC B AB A

The Role of Readings in the Course:

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 lectures 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 by one full letter grade, 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 reasonable to expect students 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.