PHI 202: Introduction to Moral Philosophy


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.

Essay submission:

Your first writing assignment is due on 08 OCt 2019 at 10:00am. You can download the prompt for this paper below. Send it to mmasny [at]

Make sure your essay has all of the following features:

(1) Your student ID (number, not netID). Please do not put your name anywhere in the paper. It is really important for me to be able to assess it anonymously.

(2) It is a docx or doc file. If you don't use Microsoft Word for writing, you can send me a pdf file. But it will more convenient for me to give you feedback using MS Word's "comments" feature.

(3) A short and informative title. Don't copy the whole prompt into your document. Instead, use something like "Utilitarianism and the problem fo demandingness" and simply do what the prompt asks you to do in the essay.

(4) Multiple sections. Dividing your essay into sections will help you structure your argument and it will help me understand it. The introduction is especially important: tell me what claim are you going to defend and, roughly, how are you going to do it.

(5) Page numbers. When I give you feedback, it will be much more convenient for me to refer to specific pages.

(6) Single-spacing, justified text, font size 11pt or 12pt, and reasonably wide margins (at least 1 inch). You can do otherwise if you feel very strongly about it, but please bear in mind that double-spaced and left-aligned text is considerably more difficult to read. Likewise for small and large text and very narrow or very wide margins.

(7) References. Please cite books and articles to which you are referring in your discussion. I recommend that you use in-text citations. For example: "Frick (2019, p. 33) argues that ... ". Make sure to add a list of references at the end of your essay. The following format is generally accepted. Books: Frick, J. (2019). Book title. Oxford University Press. Articles: Frick, J. (2019). Article title. Journal name, issue number, page numbers.

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