David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy

Spring 2005 Phl 4102 American Ethics


PHIL 4102-3/71600 and PHIL 5102-3/72217
TR 4:00PM - 5:15PM

Course Description: The philosophical tradition of ethics has focused upon such notions as duties, consequences, and character and has sought, since Plato, to find the summum bonum or “highest good.” There is, however, a strain of American philosophers who could not constrain their conceptions of moral experience within traditional approaches. Moral life was messier than the tradition portrayed—more complex, more novel, and prone to both chance and the currents of evolution. This course seeks to identify the ways in which there is an “American Ethics” that is not only different from its Western forebears but is somehow emblematic of our country. To do this we will examine a number of representative American philosophers, methods, and/or problems from the 19th+20th century. Pragmatist ethics will form a central portion of the course but we will look at figures that both preceded and followed the pragmatists in order to see American ethics in a larger framework.

Course texts: Available at Auraria and Big Dog Textbooks (1331 15th Street). Also, if you desire, online (see, for example, http://used.addall.com). If you buy your book online, make sure (1) that it is the correct edition, and (2) that you have it in time for class. See also http://www.bigdogtextbooks.com here in Denver.

1. American Ethics: A Source Book from Edwards to Dewey
Editors: H. G. Callaway, G. W. Stroh (Rowman and Littlefield Pub Inc, 2000)
Paperback ISBN: 076181826X
2. A bulk PACKET (Details to be announced)
3. Online readings (on linked throught http://www.davidhildebrand.org)

1. Meaning and action : a critical history of pragmatism,2d ed.by Thayer, H. S.
(Indianapolis : Hackett Pub. Co., 1981); ISBN:0915144743 (pbk.)
2. John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics by Steven Fesmire
(Indiana University Press, 2003) paperback; ISBN: 0253215986

Course Objectives: Ideally, by the end of this course students should gain the following skills:
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 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.


Participation/presentation --------15%
Short Writings (12 total)---------- 20%
Paper #1 (5-7 pp.) -------------------30%
Paper #2 GRADUATE students: 35% 8-10 pp. (due: NOON, 5/10, philosophy department office)
UNDERGRADUATE students: 35% 5-7 pp. (due: NOON, 5/10, philosophy department office)

Attendance + Participation/Presentation: Intellectual inquiry requires verbal discussion as much as written argument. There will be ample opportunity for active and well prepared participation, which I value and which will affect the final grade. "Participation" includes the following kinds of things: attendance, ability and willingness to contribute to class discussion and group activities, e-mail dialogue. “Presentation” means your ability to present your “short writings” in class with clarity.

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. Please see the Tips for Understanding Philosophy and for Writing Philosophy Papers on my home page. Very important: please try to set aside about 10 minutes shortly before class to look back over (skim-review) the readings and whatever you have written for that day.

Short Papers (12 total) The purpose of these assignments is to help you clarify your understanding of the readings and to help you think critically about the issues. These assignments should be TWO THIRDS TO ONE PAGE typewritten reactions or questions about some specific issue which you find compelling in the readings. On occasion, I will suggest a specific topic in advance. IMPORTANT: 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 must do 12 papers total and you may not hand in more than one paper on the same date. NO MAKE UPS on these papers. IMPORTANT: ONLY PAPERS THAT ARE WRITTEN ON A READING OR TOPIC THAT WILL BE DISCUSSED IN CLASS ON THAT CLASS ARE ACCEPTABLE. (In other words, make sure you only write a paper for something that is coming up in that day’s class.)

Grades on papers: this will be a "graded" assignment only in a loose sense; in other words it will be either satisfactory (100) or unsatisfactory (50). A zero (0) will be awarded if nothing (or next to nothing) is turned in.

Longer Papers: There will be two longer papers required for this class. Paper topics will be suggested in advance of the due date. It is likely that one option will be for you to create your own paper topic. Keep notes on possible paper topics as we progress through the readings. You may email me at any time to discuss your progress on ALL papers/assignments or we can discuss them in office hours.

Plagiarism: 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 may be an AUTOMATIC “F” FOR THIS COURSE. The CU handbook has a more complete description of plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Grades: For CU, I use the plus/minus system. 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.

Contact Information

Phone : 303-556-8558
E-mail: hilde@yahoo.com Website: http://davidhildebrand.org

Office and Hours: Plaza M108; Mondays 1-2 p.m., Tuesdays 12-1 p.m., and 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.

Schedule of Readings

SUBJECT TO REVISION; if this varies, I will let you know in class what is coming up next.
Date, Topic, Reading/Assignment (in Callaway and Stroh unless noted otherwise)
18 Introduction to Course No readings
20 Emerson1 Introduction to Transcendentalism (113-116); Emerson: The Transcendentalist (117-122); Self Reliance (123)-(129)
25 Emerson2, Fuller Emerson, The American Scholar (ONLINE);it is also here; Dewey, Emerson—Philosopher of Democracy (ONLINE--click HERE for .RTF file; Fuller, Woman in the 19th century (156-159)
27 Thoreau, Whitman Thoreau, Civil Disobedience; Walking; Whitman, Democratic Vistas (195-201)
1 Pragmatism Chapter 4 Introduction (205-208); Peirce, What Pragmatism Is; (209-213); James, What Pragmatism Means (222-233)
3 Pragmatic Ethics Hugh La Follette, Pragmatic Ethics (online PDF)
Suggested: Thayer: Part 5, Chapters 1&2 (§99-§106);
8 James1 “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”(234-243)
Suggested: Thayer chapter on James, passim. Particular attention to §31-33
10 James2 "What Makes a Life Significant?" (ONLINE)
15 James3 "The Will to Believe" (259-275)
Seigfreid, “Sympathetic Apprehension of the Point of View of the Other” (PACKET)
17 James4 “The Dilemma of Determinism” (READ IT ONLINE not in textbook)
22 James5 “The Moral Equivalent of War”(249-258)
24 Dewey 1 Pappas, Dewey’s Ethics: Morality as Experience (PACKET)
"Three Independent Factors in Morals" (PACKET)
1 Dewey 2 "Reconstruction in Moral Conceptions" (PACKET)
"The Construction of Good" (PACKET)
3 Reading Day: no class Work on your papers!
8 Dewey 3 Introduction: Human Nature and Conduct (PACKET); PAPER 1 DUE
10 Dewey 4 Human Nature and Value: Habit (PACKET)
Suggested: Fesmire, Part I, ch. 1
15 Dewey 5 "Moral Judgement and Knowledge" (PACKET)
Suggested: Fesmire, chapters 4 & 5
17 Dewey 6 “The Moral Self” (PACKET)
29 Dewey 7 "The Good of Activity" (PACKET)
31 Dewey 8 “Reconstruction as affecting social philosophy” (PACKET)
5 Dewey 9 “The Lost Individual” (PACKET)
7 Dewey 10 Search for the Great Community (PACKET)
12 Mead1 Joas on Mead: 6: Ethics (PACKET)
14 Mead2 “Play, the Game, and the Generalized Other”(ONLINE)
Aboulafia, “Social Experience and the Individual” (PACKET)
19 Mead 3 “The ‘I’ and the ‘Me’”(Online)
21 Mead 4 “The Present as the Locus of Reality”(PACKET)
26 Royce 1 Loyalty to Loyalty (PACKET)
28 Royce 2 Provincialism (PACKET)
3 Contemporary 1: Rorty Rorty, The Contingency of Language (PACKET)
Rorty, Private Irony and Liberal Hope (PACKET)
5 Contemporary 2: Rorty Evaluations
Rorty, Ethics without Principles (PACKET)
10 Contemporary 3 Final Paper DUE, by NOON in philosophy department

Last updated Dec 02, 2010 02:17:PM