David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy

Fall 2013 Phl 1020 Ethics and Society

PHIL 1020-005 (10757)

(Ethics-Society: The Person and the Community)
M/W 9:30AM - 10:45AM
Dr. David Hildebrand

Course Description: All who live in this world must choose what to do. Yet to live in the world we must live with people. When we make choices involving people we are engaged in ethical activity. Ethical debates arise from those situations where there is disagreement about: 1) how we should treat others and 2) the reasons (or arguments) for treating them in one-way rather than another. This course will look at the roots of ethics as presented by Plato and Socrates, and then go on to examine more concrete issues such as abortion, drug use, consumerism, and the moral standing of animals. Our goal will be to gain a better understanding of these issues and of the process of ethical inquiry by reading, thinking, and talking carefully and critically.

Course Objectives:

Familiarization. Gain a good sense of what is at stake in issues of course. 

Comprehension. Be able to comprehend the arguments offered by various philosophers.

Critical analysis. Be able to criticize those arguments by pointing out where they lack evidence, make an unreasonable leap, hold a false assumption, etc.

Demonstration of the above through exams, verbal responses, and writing.

Verbalization. Be able to summarize a philosophical position, without notes, using your own words. Be able to criticize a position this way.

Conversation and Debate. Be able to discuss issues in a focused and informed way with others in the class. This will involve listening closely to their points, then responding in a way that moves the discussion ahead.

Required Texts:

(a) ONLY 1 to buy: Plato Five Dialogues (Hackett Readings in Philosophy) ISBN-10: 0872206335; available in Auraria bookstore. (b) All other required readings are posted on Canvas https://ucdenver.instructure.com (Canvas) 


Canvas/Website: There are two online sites related to this course. Familiarize yourself with them right away. Both will offer you access to information about the course such as study questions, announcements, grades, extra credit assignments. 

 1. The first and most important one is our course Canvas site: https://ucdenver.instructure.com/. On this page are LOGIN INSTRUCTIONS. Please make sure you enroll right at the beginning of the class.

 2. The second site is my home page at http://www.davidhildebrand.org. Here there are a variety of general study tips and resources in philosophy.

Time Management and Expectations about Reading/Understanding Material

Time Per Week: Many of us have responsibilities that compete with this class. Though I am sympathetic, these will not excuse poor attendance or late work. Expect to spend approximately 5 hours per week on this course, out of class. If short term, non-emergency illnesses or other contingencies create problems with attending class or completing assignments in a timely manner, students must notify me before class time by leaving a message on my office telephone. I will discuss the matter with students during the next class meeting or schedule an appointment at that time if needed. I will only consider an extension if I receive notification prior to the class or deadline except in cases of documented emergency.

Readings: It is expected that you have done the readings before we discuss them. As you read, copy out important points and questions you have onto a separate sheet of paper. (These will help you with your short reflection papers.) You may also want to note problem passages (e.g., with a "?" or "Q.") in your text as you read. These are good points for class discussion. You should come to each class able to discuss the main issues of the reading and you could be asked during class to present the main points to the class. Your well-prepared participation is crucial for a successful class. Please see the Tips for Understanding Philosophy and for Writing Philosophy Papers on my home page. See also this page for tips on participating and reading. 

Very important: please set aside about 10 minutes shortly before class to look back over (skim-review) the readings and whatever you have written for that day.

Philosophy needs to be re-read. Unlike some fiction, philosophy needs to be read slowly and deliberately. Don't rush through it -- think about issues as they are raised, going back and forth if necessary. And if you're burning out, take a break. You will find that a text can seem quite different the second time through. Thomas Kuhn, a noted philosopher, wrote

When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them. When you find an answer, ...when these passages make sense, then you may find that more central passages, ones you previously thought you understood, have changed their meaning. (from The Essential Tension, p. xii.)

Nietzsche wrote,

In the midst of an age of 'work', that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to 'get everything done' at once, including every old or new book: -this art [philosophy] does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers. (Dawn, Preface)

Course Requirements/Evaluation:

1000 total points can be accumulated for this course:

• Participation   100 points (including visit with Dr. Hildebrand by end of third week of class)

 • Short writings (6)  150 points (25 each; 3 due by Sept. 30; rest due by Dec. 4) 

 • Exam 1    200 points (covering material up to first exam)

 • Exam 2    250 points (covering material after first exam)

 • Exam 3     300 points (take home, covering entire semester)

Attendance: Attendance is required. Two unexcused absences over the course of the semester are permitted without penalty. An excusable absence is a medical illness or emergency that is completely unavoidable. It is the student's responsibility to talk to me about excusable absences ASAP after the absence. Each additional absence will lower your final course grade, approximately 30 points per absence. (E.g., having a total three unexcused absences would lower a cumulative 900 point course average by 30 points to 870—effectively a reduction from an A- to a B+—and so forth.)

Participation (100 points): Active participation is part of the class grade. This includes making oral contributions to the collective learning experience of the class as a whole: asking pertinent questions, answering questions correctly or, at least, provocatively, making insightful observations, presentation of your short papers in class, and your participation in any group work. Seminar days will be devoted to discussion, so there will be lots of opportunities on that day to participate.  Shyness is not an excuse—oral participation is part of your evaluation. You can also demonstrate “active” participation in other ways: informed dialogue, presentation of your short papers in class, and your participation in any group work.

Visit with Dr. Hildebrand: must be done by end of third week of class. This will be an informal 10-15 minute “hello” visit. We will share interests, background, and hopes for the class. It’s a chance for you to tell me what you think may be your greatest challenges or areas of interest in the class so we can figure out, together, how to make the class a success for you.

Short Writings (6 total; 3 by September 30th, rest by December 4th)     150 points

The purpose of these assignments is to help you clarify your understanding of the readings and to help you think critically about the issues. You will be expected to present them in class. Follow these instructions carefully, please.

What to write on short/critical reaction papers:

 • Short papers should be: one-page, typewritten reactions or questions about some specific issue which you find compelling in the readings. Your paper must not simply sum up the reading or repeat points made there. (I.e., no book reports, please.) Rather, you must try to raise a question or discuss some original insight. You may use these papers to demonstrate your application of a concept/idea in the readings to an experience you have making or experiencing art, but the connection to the reading must be significant (and not a mere "jumping off" point. See my davidhildebrand.org website link called:  "Writing short, critical papers" for further hints about how to write a good paper. 

 • The first paragraph should state in 1-2 sentences a summary of what the paper is about.

 • Only papers written on a reading or topic that will be discussed in the class immediately coming up are acceptable.

When to write short papers:

 • You must do 6 critical papers total and you may not hand in more than one paper on the same date. THREE papers must be done by the course midpoint, September 30th. Students who have not done 3 papers by this point will only be permitted to do 3 more papers and will get 0 for the ones not done.

 • You must come to class for a paper to be accepted.

Grading on short papers

• Grade: This will be a "graded" assignment only in a loose sense; in other words it will be either S-satisfactory (full credit or 20 points) or U-unsatisfactory (half credit or 10 points). A zero (0) will be awarded if nothing (or next to nothing) is turned in on time.

• TWO MAKE-UPS: If you get a Unsatisfactory on up to two papers, you may revise and resubmit them. The old grade will be dropped in favor of the revised paper's grade.

Exams (750 points):

Likely a mixture of short answers, multiple choice, and essay. Material on exams can include required readings and anything (lecture, film, assignment) done in class. no make-up exams will be given without extenuating circumstances and arrangements made prior to the exam. A zero will be given for any missed exam not arranged for in advance. "Extenuating circumstances" include severe medical problems; talk to me about which other circumstances would count as "excusable." 


I use the plus/minus system. There are 1000 possible points for this class. An "A" will be a body of work achieving at or above 930 points; an "A-" will be 900-929 points; a "B+" is 870-899 points, etc. Values for those letters, as well as the policies regarding other grades such as Incomplete, are available in the CU Academic Policies and Regulations section of the handbook. I have set out my standards of what a grade means on my FAQ section of my website.

Course Policies

Plagiarism/ Academic Dishonesty Plagiarism is a form of stealing. It occurs when an author uses the words or ideas of others as if they were the author’s own original thought. (It may include word-for-word copying, interspersing one’s own words with another’s, paraphrasing, inventing or counterfeiting sources, submitting another’s work as one’s own, neglecting quotation marks on material that is otherwise acknowledged.) Plagiarism is often unintentional. It can be avoided by always acknowledging one’s debt to others by citing the exact source of a quotation or paraphrase. Since plagiarism is such a serious violation of academic honesty, the penalty for it will be an automatic “F” for this course. 

Academic dishonesty is the intentional disregard of course or university rules. This may include (but is not limited to) collaborating with others when rules forbid (such as on exams) or using sources/experts not permitted by an assignment. The CU handbook has a more complete description of plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Anyone caught violating the rules of an exam or an assignment can expect a failing grade for the assignment and possibly the course as well.

Access, Disability, Communication: The University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center is committed to providing reasonable accommodation and access to programs and services to persons with disabilities. Students with disabilities who want academic accommodations must register with Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 177 Arts Building, 303-556-3450, TTY 303-556-4766, FAX 303-556-2074. I will be happy to provide approved accommodations, once you provide me with a copy of DRS’s letter. [DRS requires students to provide current and adequate documentation of their disabilities. Once a student has registered with DRS, DRS will review the documentation and assess the student’s request for academic accommodations in light of the documentation. DRS will then provide the student with a letter indicating which academic accommodations have been approved.] 

Students called for military duty: If you are a student in the military with the potential of being called to military service and /or training during the course of the semester, you are encouraged to contact your school/college Associate Dean or Advising Office immediately.

Course Communication: In addition to announcements made and written handouts distributed in class, I may need to contact you between classes, which I'll do through individual and group email messages. One of the requirements for this course is that you maintain an email address, check it regularly for messages, be sure it is working, and let me know if you change your email address. You are responsible for any messages, including assignments and schedule changes, I send you via email. You also may contact me via email, in addition to seeing me during office hours or calling me.

Civility and Technology: Laptops are not permitted. Turn off beepers and cell phones during class. Text messaging, web surfing, and other electronic distractions may result in expulsion from class and will be counted as an "unexcused absence" from class. Students who are speaking deserve your attention and respect as much as I do. Listen to one another. Adherence to the Student Conduct Code is expected.

Contact Information and Office Hours

Phone : 303-556-8558

E-mail: david.hildebrand@ucdenver.edu Website: http://davidhildebrand.org

Office and Hours: Plaza M108  Hours MW 11 am - noon or by appointment.

Purpose: I strongly encourage you to participate by dropping by during office hours. We can talk about the class readings and lectures, exams and papers, your progress, or just philosophy in general. Note: If you are a student with a disability, I will make myself available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations. Before accommodations will be made, you may be required to provide documentation. Students with disabilities will be accommodated. Students with disabilities are required to register disabilities with the UCD Disability Services Office, and are responsible for requesting reasonable accommodations at the beginning of the term.

Please note: All course requirements are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

Remember, course help is available at my web address: http://DavidHildebrand.org

Course Schedule: Readings and Assignments

Except for the book by Plato (Auraria bookstore) readings are on Canvas. Note: This is a rough schedule. Subject to revision. I will let you know in each class what is coming up. 

Date Readings/Assignments Big Picture/Question


M 19 Introduction to Course: Ethical situations, the role of theories in practice No readings; Class Keynote by DH Syllabus—careful review

 What is philosophy? What is ethics? How are ethical theory and practice connected?

W 21 Plato: Euthyphro; WATCH: ONLINE: Video online about Socrates on Canvas in Audio/Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n6YCodBnqI ; QUESTION: Plato's dialogue seeks to show an attempt to define a virtue (the virtue of piety). How does this attempt at definition lead to larger questions about ethics? What does it reveal about Euthyphro's character? Notice that a dialogue can terminate with no "answers" and yet change participants by making them more prepared for further dialogue.

M 26 Plato: Euthyphro, continued QUESTION: Socrates raises a profound questions with Euthyphro: Where do our moral standards come from? Socrates seems to be saying, “They do not come from the gods.” Where, then, do they come from, according to Socrates?

W 28 Plato: Apology QUESTION: Socrates demonstrates how philosophy can criticize concepts and entire ways of living. He hopes to show how searching for knowledge is different than persuasion.



W 4 Plato: Apology QUESTION: Notice the anger provoked by asking deep questions. In what ways do you think our society would be changed by more critical thinking by (a) the public and (b) our political and cultural leaders?

M 9 Seminar Day, no new readings. QUESTION: How should we understand the connection between thinking philosophically and living ethically? What did Socrates try to teach Euthyphro--and Athens? 

W 11 Socrates in prison, awaiting his punishment. Plato:Crito Socrates refuses to escape prison. Why? What is the relationship between ethical and legal laws?

M 16 Plato: Crito & Phaedo (selection) QUESTION: At the end of his life, does Socrates fear death? Why do his followers react to his impending death the way they do?

W 18 DRUGS/PLEASURE (a) Pleasure and Desire (an excerpt from Plato's Gorgias); (b) "The Experience Machine" by Nozick. QUESTION: 

 In our excerpt from Plato's Gorgias dialogue, we see Callicles claiming that there's no more to happiness than pleasure. In the piece by Nozick, we see a technological example of a machine that can deliver endless pleasure. What, according to Socrates and Nozick, would be lost by seeking a life of ceaseless pleasure?

M 23 Review & Exam (review, 30 minutes; exam (45 minutes) Review the readings and bring questions to class. The exam will take place after the review, during the last 45 minutes of class. 

W 25 Freedom and Individual Conduct Mill, “On Liberty” When and how can the government intervene in individual choices? With what justification? Mill attempts to define the grounds and limits of government intervention in private matters. Q: What is Mill's "Harm Principle" and how is it supposed to guide intervention in individual choices?

M 30 Thomas S. Szasz, The Ethics of Addiction QUESTION: How addiction affects personal conduct and well-being. Q: Is it ethical to be addicted to something? How can we tell? Should the government be able to intervene to stop people from taking drugs? When? For what reasons?


W 2 Drugs Robert E. Goodin, “Permissible Paternalism: Saving Smokers from Themselves” Restraining individual’s behavior “for their own good.” Q: Is paternalism ever justified?

M 7 SEMINAR DAY; QUESTION: When is intervention in individual behavior justified? Is there really any such thing as purely “self-regarding” conduct? 

W 9 Abortion: (a)abortion introduction; (b) Blackmun (Roe v. Wade) QUESTION: Why is abortion legal? Should the government be able to intervene to stop people from having abortions? When? For what reasons?

M 14 (a) Pope JP II; (b) Mary Anne Warren Two opposed positions on abortion. QUESTION: When is a human life a person, according to each? What are their reasons?

W 16 SEMINAR DAY: QUESTION: How does the concept of a “person” in the Pope’s and Warren’s arguments function to show that abortion is (a) immoral or (b) moral? Q: Would society be better or worse if abortion was generally restricted or illegal? 

M 21Marquis, “Why Abortion is Immoral” QUESTION: An anti-choice position that argues that whatever a fetus is, if it’s a person to be, it cannot be killed. Q: How does Marquis’s “future-like-ours” criterion help him make his case?

W 23 Little, “The Morality of Abortion” QUESTION: Stepping aside from the “personhood” question to ask, Q: How do the particular situations of women affect how the fetus is valued? Should situations and relationships be able to determine the value of a fetus?

M 28 SEMINAR DAY Marquis and Little both try to make their arguments against and for the permissibility of abortion based without making the “person” concept central. QUESTION: How do their different strategies work? What are the important pivot points of their argument? Whether you agree, overall, with their arguments, what is worth taking away? 

W 30 Review & Exam (review, 30 minutes; exam (45 minutes) Review the readings and bring questions to class. The exam will take place after the review, during the last 45 minutes of class. 


M 4 Consumerism Hildebrand Lecture about media and advertising (ONLINE) QUESTION: How is a portrait of happiness constructed by advertising? What is that portrait? Film Advertising and the End of the World in class.

W 6 Film, continued. QUESTION: How do the stories told by advertising set the parameters for ethical action? How does advertising shape our identities as members of society? As collective problem solvers?

M 11 Lippke, “Advertising and the Social Conditions of Autonomy” QUESTION: To what degree is our autonomy constrained by advertising? Why is autonomy important?

W 13 Ethics & non-humans Peter Singer, “All Animals are Equal”  QUESTION: What do we owe to animals, ethically, and why?

M 18 Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights QUESTION: Why does Regan think animals have rights? To what treatment do these rights entitle animals? Why?

W 20 SEMINAR DAY QUESTION: How do Singer and Regan’s approaches to defending the welfare of animals differ? Do you agree with either of them? Both? What would your position be regarding the rights of animals and why? 

M/W 25/27 Thanksgiving Break


M 2 SUGGESTED: Michael Pollan “Unhappy Meals” Film in class: Food Inc. (part 1) QUESTION: What are the moral, social, and economic implications of our dietary patterns?

W 4 Film in class: Food Inc. (part 2) Final discussion of Food Inc.  Review and TAKE HOME EXAM OUT Film, Food Inc. (part 2) QUESTION: What are some of the political, social, and ethical choices that result from our current practices regarding how and what to eat?

Final Exam due Tuesday, December 10th by 12 noon in Philosophy Dept. office, my mailbox. 

Last updated Aug 13, 2013 07:10:AM