PHI 202: Introduction to Moral Philosophy (Fall 2019)


My office hours are on Tuesdays 2:00 - 3:00pm in Room 103, Marx Hall. I welcome you to attend. If this time does not suit you, send me an email to set up an appointment. I am available to meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. As a rule, I don't answer emails on weekends.

You don't need to come with a specific question: we can grab a cup of coffee, hang out in the lounge, and talk ethics.

Participation grade:

25% of your grade for PHI 202 comes from participation. Please ask questions and make contributions to discussions in lectures and precepts. In addition, on Blackboard, you can find a discussion board for your precept. There is a separate thread for each meeting. Please post a reaction to at least one of the preceding two readings by 10pm on the day before the precept. You can clarify a tricky aspect of the paper, raise an objection, raise some pertinent questions, add a neglected supporting argument, or simply identify an issue that you would like us to talk about during the precept. I will read your responses and do my best to structure the precept around them.

Surveys and summaries:

Johann's lectures will always be significantly more structured than my precepts, but neither he nor I are in the business of just presenting you with pros and cons of different answers to questions that ethicists have grappled with.

Survey articles and summaries are easy to come by online. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy are two very helpful, regularly updated online resources which professional philosophers consult frequently. There, you can find comprehensive entries on all of the central topics, such as consequentialism or hedonism. I can also recommend survey articles published in the journal Philosophy Compass . They tend to be more 'opinionated' and focused than the entries in SEP and IEP.

Handouts and other resources:

Jim Pryor's guidelines for writing a philosophy paper


Study questions 1: Intuitions, supererogatory actions, and the ethics of giving

Notes 1: Intuitions, supererogatory actions, and the ethics of giving

Study questions 2: The structure of consequentialism, theories of well-being, and moral schizophrenia

Writing assignment #1

Study questions 3: Trade-offs and moral aggregation

Brief notes on Scanlon

Study questions 4: The Trolley Problem

Study questions 5: Alienation and the Doctrine of Negative Responsibility

How to do well in the midterm examination

Brief notes on Kant

Study questions 6: Kantian ethics

Study questions 7: Moral luck, determinism, and moral responsibility

Study questions 8: Moral relativism

Study questions 9: Moral expertise and evolutionary debunking arguments

Brief notes on Mill on freedom of expression and action

Brief notes on commercial surrogacy

Study questions 10: Suicide and abortion