WVC Philosophy 3

Introduction to Ethics

Title and Number of Course
Philosophy 3, Introduction to Problems in Ethics, 3 units

Catalog Description
This course critically analyzes questions of value (what's good and bad) and obligation (what's right and wrong). It explores the ethical systems of Plato, Aristotle, Christianity, Kant, the utilitarians, and the intuitionists. These ethical systems are applied to contemporary ethical problems and social issues, such as abortion, capital punishment, feminism, euthanasia, animal rights, and racism. Much of the course is devoted to critical thinking and writing skills. The course requires the student to write a sequence of ethical "position papers", which are evaluated for both quality of analysis and English composition skills. This course is intended to satisfy the IGETC requirement for Critical Thinking/English Composition.

Grade of C or better in English 1A

This prerequisite is enforced. However, you can still enroll in the class without having met the prerequisite. You just need to file a special request.

However, we would like you to be aware of the possible consequences of enrolling in the class without having met the prerequisite:

  1. IGETC requires the English 1A prerequisite. This means a CSU or UC can refuse to accept the class for transfer within IGETC if you don't have the prerequisite. However, for many students, this does not matter. If, for example, you are not interested in transfer (perhaps you already have a B.A.), or if you are planning to attend a school other than CSU or UC, or you are not following the IGETC pattern, you needn't worry about this.
  2. Philosophy 3 and 17 presuppose that you already have the skills taught in English 1A. They assume that you can write an argumentative essay or research paper in standard English. If you cannot read and write fluently in English, you will likely not succeed in Philosophy 3 or 17.

If, after considering these matters, you would still like to challenge the prerequisite, please do so! We'd love to have you in the class.

Texts for Philosophy 3 should include at least

  1. A shorter critical thinking text oriented towards informal logic, such as Brown and Keeley, Asking the Right Questions (Prentice-Hall),Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning (Wadsworth), Weddle, Argument: A Guide to Critical Thinking (McGraw-Hill), Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, etc.


  2. A shorter critical writing text or handbook, emphasizing writing skills, such as Strunk and White, The Elements of Style (Macmillan),Trimble, Writing with Style (Prentice-Hall), etc.


  3. An ethics text containing both classic selections and contemporary ethicalarguments for analysis, such as Abelson and Friquegnon, Ethics for Modern Life (St. Martin's), Bayles and Henley, Right Conduct: Theories and Applications (Random House), Olen and Barry, Applying Ethics (Wadsworth), Sher, Moral Philosophy: Selected Readings (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich), Sommers and Sommers, Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life.

All primary texts should include awareness of ethnic and cultural diversity, including awareness of racism and sexism as important ethical issues.

Course Objectives
Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Recognize and explicate clearly in writing the major normative ethical theories in Western thought, and relate these theories to contemporary moral problems.
  2. Recognize illicit persuasive techniques -- such as loaded words, ambiguous comparisons, dubious analogies, irrelevant emotional appeals, and formal and informal fallacies -- in ethical and other argument; demonstrate competent English composition skills in written argument analysis.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to write a moderately sophisticated ethical "position paper", which clearly delineates arguments, and anticipates counterarguments, on a particular ethical view.
  4. Apply the moral problem-solving techniques proposed by ethicists to the student's own moral thinking, especially as related to social issues such as racism and sexism.
  5. Formulate and defend a coherent personal ethical stance, but be able to understand and appreciate a variety of ethical views, and engage in dialog with persons of different ethical traditions.

Course Content

	I. WHAT IS ETHICS?			1 weekConcerned with value (good and bad) and obligation    (right and wrong), as far as these can be    determined by reason aloneDescriptive vs normative vs meta-ethicsMoral value vs non-moral valueRights and dutiesTypes of ethical theories: consequentialist,    non-consequentialistThe importance of argument in ethicsII. CRITICALLY ANALYZING ARGUMENTS	3 weeksRecognizing empirical, a priori, and normative statementsDefinitions; verbal vs substantive disputes in ethicsRecognizing argumentsTechniques for diagramming arguments Recognizing emotionally-charged languageRecognizing and clarifying ambiguityInduction vs deductionValidity and soundnessEvaluating factual correctnessCommon mistakes in reasoning (fallacies),    both formal and informalArgument from analogy and its importance in    ethical and legal reasoningIII. WRITING ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAYS	3 weeksWriting dialectically (displaying argument and      counter-argument)Organizing the argumentative essayKeywords to clarify argument structureThe "principle of charity" -- putting the opponent's      position in the best lightUsing analogies effectivelyMarshaling and evaluating evidenceUsing (and critiquing) authoritiesAvoiding ambiguityAvoiding fallaciesAvoiding racial, sexual, and cultural stereotypingAnticipating objectionsTechniques for writing refutations   Refuting an argument by demonstrating ambiguous       premises and/or conclusion   Refuting an argument by demonstrating bad logic    Refuting an argument be demonstrating false,       misleading, or dubious premises   Refuting an argument by exposing false,       misleading, or dubious analogiesCritiquing and editing strategiesIV. LOGICAL ANALYSIS IN META-ETHICS		2 weeksLogical analysis of a fundamental meta-ethical question:    Is ethics possible?The challenge of psychological egoism (Hobbes):    "Ethics is impossible because people always act for the    sake of self-interest, pleasure, etc."The challenge of determinism (Skinner):    "Ethics is impossible because people don't     really have free will."The challenge of relativism:    "Ethical objectivity is impossible, because ethical     judgments are just the standards of a particular     culture, or a particular class (Marx), or the herd     (Nietzsche), or an expression of     personal taste (Ayer)."WRITING APPLICATION: an argumentative essay defending    or criticizing the enterprise of ethicsV.  LOGICAL ANALYSIS OF NORMATIVE       ETHICAL THEORIES		8 weeksThe divine imperative theory:    "Actions are right or wrong, regardless of consequences,    because God says so."The conscience (natural law) theory:    "God, or natural selection, made humans such that    other things being equal, they prefer kindness to cruelty,    friendship over discord, etc. Thus, being good is just    following your nature."Kant:    "Actions are right or wrong as a function of logic alone.     If the maxim of an action can be universalized without     contradiction, the action is right."Ethical intuitionism:    "The good can be known by a direct intuition."Utilitarianism:    "Maximize pleasure or happiness for the greatest number."WRITING APPLICATION: a series of ethical "position papers",    that use normative ethical theories combined with tools of logic    to analyze particular ethical problems.

Students will write a minimum 8000-10000 words in this class; essays will be graded on the basis of demonstrated competence in both argument analysis and English composition skills. Earlier assignments should be relatively straightforward skill-building. However, essays are expected to exhibit progressively greater depth and sophistication, building on and incorporating previously-learned skills.

General Requirements
Completion of required reading and final exam. Other requirements are determined by instructor; these may include completion of one or more papers, other written exams, journal assignments, participation in class discussion, class attendance, etc.

Since this class fulfills the IGETC Critical Thinking/English Composition requirement, evaluation is based primarily on written papers and essay examinations.

Suggested Instructional Methods and Materials
Primarily lecture and discussion. This can be supplemented by films, videos, guest speakers, class debates, etc., as deemed appropriate and desirable by the individual instructor. |||


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