David L. Hildebrand, Ph.D., Philosophy

Spring 2015 Phl 1020 Introduction to Ethical Reasoning

INTRODUCTION TO Ethical Reasoning
Spring 2015 PHIL 1020-004 #10835 

T/Th 1230 - 1:45 P.M. Haber Library Plaza M-108

Dr. David Hildebrand (david.Hildebrand@ucdenver.edu)


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 reasoning. 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 examine specific ethical theories as well as more concrete issues such as abortion, drug use, consumerism, and the moral standing of animals. Our goal will be to gain a better understanding 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: All required readings are posted on Canvas https://ucdenver.instructure.com/ https://ucdenver.instructure.com/login (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 writing (6) 150 points (25 each; 3 due by Feb. 26; rest due by April 30) 
  •  Exam 1 200 points (covering material up to first exam)
  •  Exam 2 250 points (covering material after first exam)
  •  Exam 3 300 points (covering entire semester)

Student Effort: Time Management and Expectations about Reading/Understanding Material

Many of us have responsibilities that compete with this class. Though I am sympathetic, these will not excuse poor attendance or late work. 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. 


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 means 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 March 3, rest by April 30) 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 5 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 27th. Students who have not done 3 papers by this point will only be permitted to do 2 more papers and will get 0 for the one’s 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." 


Grades: I use the plus/minus system. There are 1000 possible points for this class. An "A" for the course 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 TTh 145-245 p.m. 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 also available at my web address: http://DavidHildebrand.org

Course Schedule: Readings and Assignments


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.



Tuesday 20  One-on-one meetings Introduction to Course: Ethical situations, the role of theories in practice No readings; Class Keynote by DH Syllabus—careful review. QUESTION: What is philosophy? What is ethics? How are ethical theory and practice connected?




Thursday 22  One-on-one meetings   Biological facts, Legal Issues; 

READING(S): (a) textbook’s abortion introduction; (b) Blackmun (Roe v. Wade),  Abortion and the law; situations and possible stakes involved in abortion decision. QUESTION: Why is abortion legal?


Tuesday 27 One-on-one meetings  

READING(S): Pope JP II The Catholic position on abortion. QUESTION: why is the fetus a person from conception? 


Thursday 29 One-on-one meetings    

READING(S):  Warren A pro-choice position raising a deep metaphysical issue: when does a “life” become a “person”? Q: Do we need to decide this issue to judge what to do about abortion?



Tuesday 3 One-on-one meetings SEMINAR DAY:  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?  


Thursday 5 One-on-one meetings    

READING(S): Marquis 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?


Tuesday 10    

READING(S): Margaret Olivia Little, The Morality of Abortion 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?


Thursday 12  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. Q. 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? 


Tuesday 17  Exam Review 30 minutes; Exam 1 in class (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. 


Autonomy and Paternalism

Thursday 19  Autonomy and Paternalism Balancing Interests: Individual and Society (theory) 

READING(S): (a) Mill, “On Liberty”; (b) Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Mill’s On Liberty   Most people believe a fulfilling life requires the ability to develop their talents, have experiences, and express themselves. Such self-control over one’s life is frequently called “autonomy.” But is this belief correct? What justifies it? Mill’s On Liberty is a classic statement of why autonomy is necessary and justified. QUESTIONS: What is Mill's "Harm Principle" and how is it supposed to guide a society in how it interacts with the conduct its members?


Tuesday 24 Test case of Paternalism: Drugs Drug Control and Addiction; 

READING(S): Thomas S. Szasz, The Ethics of Addiction  Szasz takes Mill at his word and applies the “harm principle” to the question of drugs and regulation. Q:  What does Szasz think should be done to people who use or abuse drugs? What is his justification? Do you agree?


Tuesday 26 Modified Paternalism 

READING(S): (a) Dworkin on “Paternalism”  Whereas Mill is extremely anti-paternalistic, Dworkin makes a case for a modified version of it. QUESTION: What is Dworkin’s argument for the ability of a state to intervene in individual conduct? Do you agree or disagree and why?



Tuesday 3 Test case of Modified Paternalism: Drugs  

READING(S): Robert E. Goodin, Permissible Paternalism: Saving Smokers from Themselves  Goodin applies a form of modified paternalism (like Dworkin’s) by applying it to the issue of smoking. This is paternalism where one restrains an individual’s behavior “for their own good.” Q: Do you agree with Goodin’s approach, here? Why or why not? What are the consequences of not intervening?




Thursday 5 Consumerism (especially gender fairness, and advertising)  Guest Lecturer: Dr. Sarah Tyson Film: “Killing Us Softly4” by Jean Kilbourne 

READING(S): (a)  Study guide for film; 

 (b) Ciriello, "The Commodification of Women: Morning, Noon, and Night" In addition to government, we should consider corporate and media institutions’ influence on our behavior. In that connection, this film raises important questions about how women’s identities are shaped in consumer economies. Q: Are women/girls under economic, social, or economic pressure that affects their work, identity, and position in society? How does advertising shape self image and how does that feed back into the economy in the form of sexualized labor?


Tuesday 10  Consumerism and Autonomy. Balancing Interests: Individual and Society (advertising and autonomy) 

READING(S): Lippke, “Advertising and the Social Conditions of Autonomy”  Recall the principle suggested earlier: that autonomy is a key basis for a fulfilling and moral life. Consider the theme advanced in the film on advertising and consider whether Lippke’s argument identifies a serious moral problem with advertising. Q: To what degree is our autonomy constrained by advertising? What restraints on advertising might be required to deal with that problem?


Thursday 12  Consumerism (advertising and happiness) Film: Part I Advertising and the End of the World 

READING(S):  Hildebrand Lecture about media and advertising (ONLINE) The construction of our pictures of happiness and moral action. Q: How is a portrait of happiness constructed by advertising? What is that portrait?


Tuesday 17  Consumerism (advertising and happiness) Film: Part II Advertising and the End of the World; 

READING(S): Boorstin, “The Rhetoric of Democracy" UPLOAD 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?


Thursday 19 SEMINAR DAY What choices and possibilities are presented by the advertising and the consumer economy? Are these compatible with democracy? With the construction of an ethical life?

Tuesday/Thursday 24/26 SPRING BREAK 


Tuesday 31 One way of tying together various threads of the course so far is to consider the connections between advertising, democracy, and autonomy. Today, Professor Hildebrand will present a presentation entitled “Democracy as a Way of Life”. There is no assigned reading for today.  



Thursday 2  Exam Review 30 minutes; Exam 2 in class (45  min.) Review the readings and bring questions to class. The exam will take place after the review, during the last 45 minutes of class. 


Ethics and non-humans


Tuesday 7  Ethics and non-humans Film, Food Inc. (part 1)

SUGGESTED READING(S):  Michael Pollan “Unhappy Meals” Q: What are the moral, social, and economic implications of our dietary patterns?


Thursday 9  Ethics and non-humans Film, Food Inc. (part 2)  Continuation of film and film-discussion; 

READING(S):  Textbooks Introduction to Animals Q: What are the moral, social, and economic implications of our dietary patterns?


Tuesday 14  Ethics and non-humans 

READING(S): Peter Singer, “All Animals are Equal” Discussion of film, and Singer. Q: What do we owe to animals, ethically, and why?


Thursday 16  Ethics and non-humans 

READING(S): Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights 

Animals as bearers of moral rights. Q: Why does Regan think animals have rights? To what treatment do these rights entitle animals? Why?


Tuesday 21  SEMINAR DAY 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? 


Thursday 23  Ethics and non-humans 

READING(S):  Rollin  “Environmental Ethics” What is Rollin’s “sentientiest” approach? What must something have to have value for Rollin? 


Tuesday 28  Ethics and non-humans 

READING(S): Carl Cohen, "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research" in Mappes, 6th ed. Does the use of animals in biomedical experiments constitute an ethically acceptable use of animals? On what basis does Cohen argue this is permissible? 


Thursday 30  Ethics and non-humans; last day to turn in a short paper.





Tuesday 5  SEMINAR DAY What value can we place on “sentience”? Should sentience be protected? To what extent? What balance should be struck between protecting sentient life and using it to enhance our own? What are the implications of doing these things? 


Thursday 7  Review and TAKE HOME EXAM OUT


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

Last updated Jan 11, 2015 11:10:AM