Contemporary Moral Issues (PHIL 350:01)
Professor: Dr. David K. Braden-Johnson
Department: Philosophy, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Modern Languages
Office: Office #2, 100 Porter Street
Office Hours: MWF 9-10
Phone: (413) 662-5448
Required Text: Cohen & Wellman, Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics
Focus of Course
This is an upper-division philosophy elective in applied ethics – the self-consciously concrete and worldly application of normative (evaluative, moral) thought and language to human affairs. We will briefly examine the nature of ethical language and thought (so-called “meta-ethics”), the challenge of relativistic ethics, and competing ethical principles and theories (virtue theory, deontological and consequentialist/teleological theories, etc.) before considering in detail a variety of moral dilemmas involving the infliction of serious harm or death on sentient beings (humans included), such as capital punishment, abortion, animal use/abuse, euthanasia, war, suicide, etc.
My blog listed above contains links to all supporting course handouts and assignments, including a noninteractive page that lists weekly writing assignments for this course (“Q&As: CMI”). Since I prefer to devote class-time to the exposition and analysis of student and textual positions, I typically reserve my own views for this online medium.
Class Policies and Expectations
Carefully review Handout CL and the honors Director’s short essay, designed for honors students but to my mind applicable to good students everywhere, “What Makes Honors Students Honorable?” in Thesis XII Online (http://thesisxii.blogspot.com)
I will attempt to email the entire class to warn of any unanticipated cancellations.
Laptop/Cell Phone Policy
Like a concert hall or theater, our classroom is reserved for face-to-face interaction. Thus, barring special needs or circumstances, you may bring but not use your laptop during class. The same policy applies to cell phones, IPods, and all other distracting gadgets. Please print out in advance any electronic material required for class.
Each week, students will complete short, highly-polished, critical (See Handouts CR1, CR2, and CR3) writing assignments (typically based on a specific reading from our text) called “Q&As” (see Handout QAHO).
My grading policy is, therefore, transparent and simple, based solely on the scores of your Q&As. (See Handouts QAHO and CL, “grading”). Note: there will be no examinations/quizzes in this course.