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Philosophy 2070E Ethics and Society


									                            THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO
                                DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
                              Undergraduate Course Outline 2009-2010

                           Philosophy 2070E: Ethics and Society
                                       (Previously Philosophy 142E)

                                    Thursday 7pm-9pm, TC 309

 Fall Term 2009                                  Winter Term 2010
 Instructor: Lee-Anna Sangster                   Instructor: Arthur Yates
 Office: Talbot College, Room 331                Office: Talbot College, Room 325
 Office Hours: Fridays, 10am – 12pm              Office Hours: TBA
 E-Mail:                          E-Mail:

One of the central problems of philosophy, and indeed for humanity in general, is how individuals should
interact with others. Both moral and political systems have been developed in response to this problem,
and this course will serve as an introduction to both. In this course, many of the central theories that arise
in moral and political philosophy will be engaged by examining a selection of core texts from the history
of these disciplines. In addition, a significant portion of the course is devoted to investigating how these
theories are applied in our society today. In the first half of the course we will focus on ethical theories
and questions, with the second term devoted to political matters. All classes will strive to achieve a
balance between lecture and discussion.
In the Fall term, we will have three main objectives: 1) To develop a familiarity with ethical and moral
theories, such as deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and feminist ethics. 2) To explore
contemporary debates surrounding issues such as terrorism, sexuality, euthanasia, and animal rights. 3)
To develop critical thinking skills and provide an understanding of the structure of moral arguments.
Combined, these three objectives should provide students with the ability to think critically about moral
issues and the ability to develop and defend their own moral arguments.
In the Winter term, we will investigate, via classic and contemporary readings, such themes as (1) the
origin and justification of the state, (2) limitations on state power, (3) the moral obligation to obey the
law, and (4) the relationship between morality and law. In addition, we will explore various corresponding
issues including (1) Punishment: what justifies punishment? Is capital punishment justifiable? (2)
Autonomy and individual liberty: should there be restrictions on freedom of expression? On what basis
should the state decide the limiting conditions on individual freedom? (3) Fidelity to law: can justice and
law conflict? If so, do we have any obligation to obey unjust laws? (4) Privacy: Does the state have a right
to criminalize private “immorality”?
James Rachels and Stuart Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Sixth Edition
James Rachels and Stuart Rachels, The Right Thing to Do, Fifth Edition
*Additional Resources will be made available on WebCT


Course reader; available for purchase at the copy centre.
*Additional articles will be posted on Web CT.
Four Reading Exercises (300 words each; Due the class of the assigned reading)      10%
Term Essay (1500 words, Due November 19, 2009)                                      15%
Mid-Year Exam (A combination of short answer and essay-type questions)              20%
Participation                                                                       5%
Two Critical Précis (option of doing three with the two highest marks counting
towards final grade; 500 words each; Due a week after the scheduled reading)        10%
Term Essay (1500 words, Due second last week of classes)                            15%
Final Exam (A combination of short answer and essay-type questions)                 20%
Participation                                                                       5%
All late submissions (whether assignments or essays) will receive a deduction of 5% of the mark per day
late, with Weekends counting as one day.
Anything not submitted by the beginning of the next class after it’s original due date will receive a mark
of zero.
Exemptions from late penalties for assignments will be handled by the course Instructors on a case by
case basis.
As per the UWO guidelines, exemptions from late penalties for essays, as they are worth more than 10%
of the student’s final grade, must be handled by the Student’s Academic Counselling Office (in the office
of the dean of their faculty).
Students wishing to audit the course should consult with the instructor prior to or during the first week of
The Department of Philosophy Policies which govern the conduct, standards, and expectations for
student participation in Philosophy courses is available in the Undergraduate section of the Department of
Philosophy website at It is your
responsibility to understand the policies set out by the Senate and the Department of Philosophy, and thus
cannot be used as grounds of appeal.

Incompletes are granted at the exclusive discretion of the Undergraduate Program Chair, and only on the
basis of documented medical or compassionate grounds. If, during the course, you envisage any difficulty
completing all the required work by the completion deadline, consult immediately with the instructor and
the Undergraduate Program Chair.

You are responsible for ensuring that you have successfully completed all course prerequisites and that
you have not taken an antirequisite course. Lack of prerequisites may not be used as basis of appeal. If
you are not eligible for a course, you may be removed from it at any time, and you will receive no fee
adjustment. These decisions cannot be appealed.


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