Philosophy 2 Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy Stephan

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					Philosophy 2
Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
Stephan Johnson
Office: 658 Batmale Hall
Office Hours: MW 10-11; 5-6, and by appointment

Required Text: Philosophy 2 Course Reader (available at Copy Edge on
Ocean Ave.)

Online Resources
Philosophy Wiki (
On this site, you’ll find resources for you related to this course, and all the
philosophy courses I teach at City College. On the Wiki, you’ll find the
syllabi for all of my courses, suggested readings, helpful links to other
Internet sources, and the PowerPoint demonstration that will form the
backbone of this course. There is also a comment section for each course to
further communication between myself and students and also to facilitate
student-to-student contact. I highly encourage you to make use of it and if
there’s ever a need to communicate anything to the whole class that can’t
be done in class, that will typically be the vehicle. You can have it set up as
an RSS feed if you like.

Course Description:
The purpose of this course is to introduce to answers to some of the most
vexing questions known to humanity. What is justice, social or otherwise?
What is right? What is good? What is the proper relationship between
people and their government? What kinds of systems of economic
distribution are fair? Everyone talks about these things, some protest
about them, but few deign to attempt to answer these simple but
exceedingly difficult questions. Of course perhaps the reason so few
attempt to answer these questions is because they are so difficult and,
despite what you may have heard, no one has answered any of them to
everyone’s satisfaction. But if you can’t wrestle with difficult questions in a
philosophy class, where can you?

So the program is to wrestle with these questions by reading some of the
best attempts to answer them around. What we’ll do is break the kinds of
answers up into various traditions. We’ll proceed first from a moral
perspective focusing on the major traditions of the West. Then we’ll see
how that plays out politically by examining some of the major Western
works of political theory. Then, we’ll look at the Confucian tradition and
examine it from both a moral and a political perspective. Finally, we’re
going to examine current work in moral psychology that looks at the cross
cultural empirical data on the moral judgments people actually make and
see which, if any, of these philosophical perspectives best fits lived moral

Schedule of Topics/Readings

Moral Perspectives of the West

Reading 1: Utilitatarianism (J.S. Mill)

Reading 2: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (I. Kant)

Reading 3: Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)

Political Perspectives of the West

Reading 4: The Social Contract (J. Rousseau)

Reading 5: The German Ideology: (K. Marx)

Reading 6: Reflections on the Revolution in France (E. Burke)

Reading 7: Two Treatises on Government (J. Locke)

Moral/Political Perspectives of the East

Reading 8: The Analects (Confucius)

Reading 9: The Mencius

Moral Psychology, Moral Judgment and Culture

Reading 10: Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development (W.C. Crain)

Reading 11: The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail (J. Haidt)

Reading 12: Culture and Self (Markus and Kitayama)

Reading 13: Effect of Culture on Perspective Taking (Keyser and Wu)

Classroom Policies: My classroom policies are what I would expect are
rather normal standards: I strongly encourage a free and open discussion
(the course depends on it), but ordinary decency must prevail. I’m
assuming if you’ve got this far in life, you know how to conduct yourself in
a classroom and you are clear as to why conducting yourself in such a way
is in your own self interest. However, in case that’s a little too nebulous,
perhaps a simple series of thoughts will make it clearer. First, I (like my
fellow faculty members) am a human being. Second, I am the one who will
be doing the grading for this class. Third, as a human being who’s invested
his life in thinking and teaching about this subject matter, I notice when a
student acts in a way that appears to manifest not just a less than
passionate attitude towards the class and its subject (one can’t ask for too
much), but a rather conscious and studied indifference, to say nothing of a
positive hostility. So, if a student does things like text messaging, sleeping,
engaging in long ex parte discussions with other students, or even
unceremoniously walking out during class, I notice that; I remember
that. Going back to the earlier points about grading and being a human
being: If, when coming to a students’ name on the list, I notice that their
grade total is perhaps on the border between grades, I then search my
memories for reasons to move that student up a notch (I’m always
favorably disposed at the outset). However, if in my search, I come up with
memories of that student sleeping, or text messaging, or walking out
during class, or rarely showing up to class at all, well, you do the math. So,
here’s a general rule of thumb: If you can imagine someone not
appreciating how you’re going about things in class, it’s safest to assume
that I won’t appreciate it either and you can guarantee that I’ll make a
mental note of it.

Prerequisites: This class is very conceptual and will require a high degree
of critical thinking, both in writing and verbally. While there are
introductory classes in philosophy, there are no beginning classes in
philosophy. The materials you will read and the presentation you will
receive will be what one would get were one in any philosophy course at
any reputable institution of higher learning. As this class is fully
transferable and indeed modeled on courses offered at UC, that will set the
standard for this course, in all respects. As far as a good initial mindset
goes, if you’ve always been of the questioning sort and enjoy critical
discussion and argument, this class ought to fit you well. So, in terms of
prerequisites, there are no formal ones. All the same, if you aren’t the least
bothered about very basic questions that life throws up, then this class
may well not fit you. On the other hand, if you still remember those
questions you had as a small child and at least some of them still perplex
you, you could well be in the right place.

Course Requirements: The determiners of your grade for the course are of
three types: a) Weekly Take Home Reading Analyses; b) Two In Class
Mid Term Exams; c) an In Class Final Exam. How this will work will be
as follows:

Weekly Take Home Reading Analyses
On Wednesday of each week, I will announce a brief passage from the
readings that you are to analyze in a brief (no more than one typed page)
paper that will be due on the first day of the following class week. What I’m
looking for in these analyses is a demonstration that you understand the
text, to some reasonable degree of depth. A more specific and detailed set
of instructions and help on these kinds of assignments is available on the
Wiki, but briefly, what I’m looking for is a demonstration that (a) you
understand the main point of the passage; (b) you are able to surmise the
author’s principle reasons or evidence for this point; and (c) that you can,
concisely, discuss this passage as to the degree of support provided for the
main point.

The grading policy for these analyses will be to score them on a three-point
scale. The first point is tied to your ability to discern and state clearly the
thesis of the passage. The second point requires that you accurately find
and clearly express the argument in the passage for its thesis. The third
point comes from accomplishing the first two goals, and then concisely and
accurately assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the argument for the
main point in the passage.

Giving out one assignment per week yields 17 assignments for the entire
semester. The total number of points you may earn in this portion of the
course, though, is 25 points. So the goal is for everyone to earn the full
compliment of 25 points. My advice is not to wait until later in the
semester to start handing in analyses, for reasons that will become even
more clear below.

There are a few ground rules for these assignments that are very
important to note.
1. I will not email out which passage you are to analyze each week. The
passage will be announced in class only.
2. I will only accept analyses handed to me in class, during the class for
which the passage is assigned. That means no dropping off analyses at my
office or handing them to me in the bathroom and most definitely no email
acceptance at all.
3. I will not accept any analyses on any day other than the first class day of
the week for which it was assigned. That means no late papers accepted,
at all.
4. I will only return your graded analyses in class on the last day of the
class week in which they are due. That means no picking them up at my
office or in the bathroom or the hallway.

In Class Mid Term Exams
There will be two mid term exams, both in class, and both will be of exactly
the same sort of thing as the take home weekly analyses. That is, the mid
terms will consist of one passage, chosen by me, that you are to analyze in
the same manner you’ve been doing at home only now in class. I will tell
you which author and which text the passage you are to analyze will be
coming from, but I will not give you the passage ahead of time. You will be
allowed to have the text with you during the exams. Each mid term exam
is worth 25 points, more or less corresponding to the 3 point scale for the
weekly assignments (i.e., 8 tied to ascertaining the thesis; 16 points for
summarizing the argument; 24 points for doing both of those and also
critically discussing the merits of the argument and assumptions of the

Date of the Mid-Term Exams
Mid-Term 1: 3/3
Mid-Term 2: 4/21

Final Exam: At 10:30 AM on May 26, in the same room our class meets,
you will have an In Class Final of the exact same form and point value as
the Mid-Terms.

Grade Scale: The total possible points for the course are 100. Your point
total will be a function of your Weekly Analyses (25 points possible), your
Mid-Term Exams (48 points possible), your Final Exam (24 points
possible) and 3 points for attendance. The grading scale will be as follows:

      A: 92-100%
      B: 82-89%
      C: 65-79%
      D: 50-64%
      F: 0-49%

Point totals that fall between grades will be re-subject to the influence of
Ineffable Factors. There is no extra credit available. If you want to do
well, show up and study hard.

Academic Misconduct: You must be the sole author of all work that
appears under your name. Do not be tempted to copy material from
another student or other source (i.e., the internet). It is the easiest
thing in the world to catch. For those so tempted, any or all of the following
may result: disciplinary action by the College; an F on the assignment: an F
in the course. If you have any questions about proper citation and/or
quoting or paraphrasing, consult me or a reputable writing guide (MLA
Guide to Style; The Elements of Style—both available in the College

Attendance: Attendance will be taken every class session. The 3 points
allotted for that portion of your grade will be distributed as follows:

      Miss 3 classes or less: 3 points
      Miss 4 classes: 2 points
      Miss 5 classes: 1 point
      Miss more than 5 classes: 0 points

Drop Policy: If you miss more than 3 class sessions in a row, I reserve the
right to drop you. Other than that, I will not drop any students.