Dan Hausman
5197 H. C. White Hall


Daniel Schneider
5174 H.C. White Hall
603 322-5961
Office Hours:
I will be available after class almost every day.
Office Hours:
Available after class Wed. and Thurs.

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.

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 public web page for this course during the previous Spring semester: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/341/Spring2009/341-Spring2009.htm. You will also be able to access your grades on Learn@UW.

Course Requirements:

There will be ten quizes, worth 10 points each, with the two lowest grades dropped ,and a final exam worth 20 points. In addition, excellent contributions to class discussion will boost your grade. The quizzes will cover both material from the previous lecture and from the reading assigned the day of the quiz.

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:

Course Outline:

Tuesday, May 26: 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.

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

Wednesday, May 27: Further discussion of the nature of morality and an introduction to logic

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

Thursday, May 28: Contracts and surrogate motherhood

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

Quiz #1

Friday, May 29: Should surrogate motherhood contracts be legally enforceable?

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

Quiz #2

Monday, June 1: Conclusions on surrogate motherhood and introduction to abortion

Review surrogate motherhood readings
Roe v. Wade

Quiz #3

Tuesday, June 2: Where do rights come from? What status does a fetus have?

Immanuel Kant, "The Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals"
Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

Wednesday, June 3: The status of a fetus and the pro-life argument

Don Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral
Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Quiz #4

Thursday, June 4: Conclusions on Abortion

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

Quiz #5

Friday, June 5: Utilitarianism and introduction to capital punishment

"Some Notes on Utilitarianism"
Jeffrey Reiman, "Just Deserts and Just Punishments" from "Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty"

Quiz #6

Monday, June 8: Retributivist and utilitarian views of capital punishment

Jeffrey Reiman, "Just Deserts and Just Punishments" from "Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty"
John Stuart Mill, "Speech in Favor of Capital Punishment"
Ernest van den Haag, "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense"

Quiz #7

Tuesday, June 9: Affirmative Action: history and reverse discrimination argument

Nicolas Lemann, "Taking Affirmative Action Apart" AA, pp. 34-55.
Lyndon Johnson "To Fulfill These Rights: Commencement Address at Howard University" AA, pp. 56-63.
Ward Connerly, "The Sweet Music of Equal Treatment" AA, pp. 64-69.
Richard Wasserstrom, "A Defense of Programs of Preferential Treatment," AA, 198-204.

Quiz #8

Wednesday, June 10: Libertarianism and affirmative action: compensation and reparations

D. Hausman and M. McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
Michael Levin, "Is Racial Discrimination Special?" AA, 214-26.
Robert Fullinwider, "The Case for Reparations" (xerox)
David Horowitz, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks -- and Racist Too"

Quiz #9

Thursday, June 11: Equal opportunity and forward-looking considerations

Louis Pojman, "The Moral Status of Affirmative Action," AA, 175-97.
George Sher, "Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment," AA, 227-38.
Ronald Dworkin, "Affirming Affirmative Action" (xerox)

Quiz #10

Friday, June 12: Review and final examination


With such controversial and important issues we should strive for as much discussion as possible within the constraints of the limited time we have. 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.)

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 Reading Philosophy Papers:

Although you will not be able to understand completely the most difficult philosophical texts such as Kant's Groundwork, you should aim to master most of the readings, particularly those that address specific issues. Here are some detailed hints about how to do so:

1. Use your highlighter very sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively engaging the author is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)

2. The assignments are usually short, and you should plan on reading the assignments at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:

a. What is the author's position?

b. What is the general structure of the paper? Is it a collection of separate arguments, or does it aim to make one main argument?

c. What are the author's main assumptions? (Where is the author coming from?)

d. Against whom does the author take him/herself to be arguing? What is the context in which the piece was written?

e. What is the main line of argument (or what are the main lines of argument)?

f. What objections does the author address and how successful is the author in answering them?

g. How does the author's position relate to your views? To what extent does the author reinforce or challenge your views?

h. How do the author's arguments relate to the arguments developed in lecture and in other reading assignments? What criticisms would the author make of arguments developed in lecture or in other readings? To what extent is the position of the author open to criticisms made in lecture or in other readings?

During the second reading of the assignment, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than asking, as suggested above, questions about what the author's purposes, organization, and argument are, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the author's arguments.