Dan Hausman
5197 H. C. White Hall
354-6120    
dhausman@wisc.edu

Tim Aylsworth
5168 Helen C. White Hall

aylsworth@wisc.edu

Office Hours: Immediately after class
Office Hours: Immediatey after class

 

 

 

 

Philosophy 341 Syllabus


Introduction:

Although one cynical reaction to the world around us is to think of morality as empty words, the actions of individuals and even of whole societies are nevertheless influenced by moral judgments. (Have you never been influenced by concerns about whether what you are doing is right or wrong? -- and if you have, why suppose that others haven't?) 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) inequalities of income, wealth, and health, and 4) health care. 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, inequalities, and health care. 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 should 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 valuable for 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, 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 more concerned with mastering skills than with 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.


What this course does not aim to do:

1. This course does not aim to provide pat answers to questions such as "Is abortion morally permissible?" It is not 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 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 own mind concerning surrogate motherhood, abortion, inequalities, and health care, and 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 your TA. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact Jesse Steinberg, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.
Texts:

All of the course readings will be available electronically on the Learn@UW site for the course. Please download each of the readings and print it. You'll grasp the material much better if you read a printed version than if you try to read it on a computer or tablet screen.


Computers:

Students may use computers in class only with special permission from the instructor. Computers often distract students and diminish involvement, and subtle philosophical distinctions and arguments cannot be understood while keeping up with Facebook traffic.


Cell Phones:

It should go without saying that these should be stowed and off during class.
Public Web Site:

In addition to the learn@uw site, there is a public web site for the course: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/341/default.htm. You will find useful documents there.

I STRONGLY urge you to download and print out the essays that are posted on the Learn@UW site. You will have a more difficult time mastering the material, if you attempt to read the essays on your computer. Moreover, if you do not print them out, you will not be able to refer to the readings during lecture.


Students with disabilities:

I hope to make this course as accessible as is feasible to anyone with a disability. Please let me know as early in the course as possible if you need accommodations in the curriculum, instruction, or assessments in this course to enable you to participate fully. I will attempt to maintain confidentiality of any information you share with me.


Course Requirements:

There will be 10 homework assignments, each worth one point toward your grade, 10 mini-quizzes worth 3 points each (of which only the highest eight grades count), three substantial quizzes at the beginning of each of the last three weeks worth 12 points each, and a final examination worth 30 points. Perfect attendance will provide you with a 2-point bonus. Each class that you miss will lower your semester grade by 2 points, but you have the option of making up two missed classes by writing a lucid and well-organized 500-word precis of the classes you missed and submitting it to me within four days of the missed class or by August 7, whichever is earliest.

The brief mini-quizzes will test your familiarity with the assigned readings and the content of the previous class. The substantial quizzes will be similar to midterm examinations and will concern the material covered during the previous week. The final examination, which will be held on the last day of classes (August 7) will be cumulative.

Your homework grade will depend simply on completing the homework assignments on time. I will accept up to three homework assignments up to two days late. After that, you will not get credit for that homework assignment. I will comment on a sample of each of the homework assignments.


WARNING!! Philosophy challenges complacency and demands rigorous thinking. It’s hard to know what the truth is concerning hard questions like the ones we will be addressing this semester.
Course Outline:

Monday, July 14: 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. 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, July 15: Conclusions on the nature of morality and discussion of arguments and informal logic; Duties and righst

Steven Pinker, "The Moral Instinct"
D. Hausman,   "Skill Sheet: Good and Bad Arguments"
John Locke, Chapter 2 "Of the State of Nature" of his Second Treatise of Government

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.


Wednesday, July 16: Surrogate Motherhood (1)

J.C.S. Sorkow, Opinion in the "Baby-M" Case
Katha Pollitt, "The Strange Case of Baby M,"
Opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court

Homework #2 due. Write 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.


Thursday, July 17: Conclusions on Surrogate Motherhood


Monday, July 21: 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?

Roe v. Wade
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 play "Devil's Advocate" and to try to lay bare, as far as possible, any weakness in your own position.


*Tuesday, July 22: Some pro-choice and pro-life arguments -- Warren and Marquis

Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"
Don Marquis, Why Abortion is Immoral


Wednesday, July 23: If a fetus has a right to life, does it follow that abortion should be illegal?

Judith Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion"

Homework #4 due: Write an informal essay of 300 to 500 words addressing the question of whether someone who believes that abortion should generally be illegal can consistently make an exception for the cases of rape or incest.


Thursday, July 24: Conclusions on abortion

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? What are your own intuitions? Are these intuitions consistent? How can they be explained?


Monday, July 28: Utilitarianism and income and wealth inequalities

"Inequalities Data"
Dan Hausman, "Some Notes on Utilitarianism"

Homework #6 due: Write a 300 to 500-word informal essay discussing how a utilitarian would approach surrogate motherhood or abortion and what conclusion the utilitarian would draw.


Tuesday, July 29: Inequalities, utilitarianism, and libertarianism-- How large and how disturbing

Will Wilkinson, "Thinking Clearly about Economic Inequality"
Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (excerpts)
Dan Hausman and Michael McPherson, "Some Notes on Libertarianism"
Laim Murphy and Thomas Nagel, Excerpts from The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice

Homework #7 Due: Write an informal essay of 300-500 words stating your "initial" view of whether the government should aim to lessen inequalities in wealth and income. 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, July 30: Rawls theory of justice and just distribution

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (excerpts)

Homework #8 due: Write a 300-500-word informal essay discussing whether we should care about equal opportunity and, if so, why we should care or, if not, why equal opportunity is not of moral importance.


Thursday, July 31: Does the 1% deserve its income and wealth? Conclusions on income and wealth distribution

Joel Feinberg, "Economic Income as Deserved"
Gregory Mankiw, "Defending the One Percent"
Elizabeth Anderson, "How Not to Complain About Taxes (III): "I deserve my pretax income"


Monday, August 4: Healthcare, lecture 1: Facts about health and health care

"Comparison of Canadian and U.S. health care systems"
Richard Wilkinson and Michael Marmot, "Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts"
Angus Deaton, "What does the empirical evidence tell us about the injustice of health inequalities?"

Homework #9 due: Write a 300 to 500 word essay expressing your initial view about whether the government ought to ensure that all its citizens have adequate health insurance. What do you take to be the main argument in defense of your view? What do you take to be the main objections to your view, and how would you respond to them?


Tuesday, August 5: The moral importance of health care and the problems with health-care markets

Norman Daniels, "Justice, Health, and Health Care"
Loren Lomasky, "Medical Progress and National Health Care"


Wednesday, August 6: Healthcare provision and Obamacare

Obamacare Summary
Henry Aaron and Joseph Newhouse, "Meeting the Dilemma of Health Care Access: Extending Insurance Coverage while Controlling Costs"
Grace-Marie Turner & James C. Capretta & Thomas P. Miller & Bob Moffit, "Getting Health Care Right"


Thursday, August 7: Review and final examination

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.

Homework: MAKE-UP FORM FOR MISSING LECTURES:

Name:

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.

***************


The Use of Email:

Email can be a great convenience, but in a large class, it can get out of hand. Tim 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. Some questions are not appropriate. For example, "Could you please restate the last three lectures?"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, for which there is no excuse. Because the only written work you will be doing outside of class consists of the homework, which is not graded, I would hope that there will be no problems with plagiarism, but unfortunately that hope has occasionally been disappointed in the past. All sources and assistance used in anything you write must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me or with Tim. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL.  It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted. The minimum penalty for plagiarism -- even of just a phrase -- is a zero on the assignment.

In my experience, plagiarism usually happens because it is 3 a.m. on the morning when an assignment is due. You're exhausted and and you've come across an obscure web page that says pretty much what you've been trying to say. And ... well you can fill in the rest, perhaps even what happens when you get caught. This is the time to stop and go to bed. Much better to talk with me or your TA and get some help. Take the mild penalty (if any) for not submitting the assignment on time.


Grading Scheme:

I am planning on employing the on-line gradebook on the Learn@UW web site.

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 usually do not devote my lectures to the exposition and discussion of the readings (though I am happy to entertain questions about how my lectures relate to the readings). Although I will 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 or exactly how they are relevant 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 (as, in one regard or another, they often are), there are valuable lessons to be learned from understanding their mistakes. The quizzes and examination 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 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 essay? 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


Some recommendations on how to write badly: (adapted from Martin Hassel  http://lacasahassel.net/cv/martin/howto.htm)

1.  Begin with a sentence that is clear and direct:

Katha Pollitt vigorously condemns surrogate motherhood.

2. Change its verbs, adjectives, and adverbs into abstract nouns:

Katha Pollitt presents a vigorous condemnation of the acceptability of surrogate motherhood.

3. Make the sentence passive:

A vigorous condemnation of the acceptability of surrogate motherhood is presented by Katha Pollitt.

4. Use two words where one would do:
A vigorous and strong condemnation and critique of the acceptability or legality of surrogate motherhood is presented by Katha Pollitt.

5. Use plenty of 'in regard to,' 'as to' and similar terms:

In regard to the acceptability or legality of surrogate motherhood under some circumstances, a vigorous and strong condemnation and critique thereof is presented by Katha Pollitt.

6. Sprinkle with words that do not add anything:

In regard to the fundamental or derivative acceptability of surrogate motherhood under or within some circumstances or situations, a specific vigorous and strong direct condemnation and forceful critique thereof can be found in writings by Katha Pollitt.

7. Use negatives:

In regard to the not-underivative acceptability or less-than universal legality of surrogate motherhood under or within some circumstances or situations, a not unspecific nor indirect nor weak or unvigorous condemnation and critique thereof can be found in writings by Katha Pollitt.

8. Repeat the preceding steps:

How awful can you make the sentence?


Special considerations in philosophical argumentation:

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 your position that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side". (This is not to say that there are no mistakes and that both sides of every issue are always equally well supported. If the question was, "Should slavery be legal?" it is worth studying what can be said in the defense of slavery, even though there is in fact very little to be said in its defense.)