Department of Philosophy Ryerson University PHL 503 Moral Philosophy by ikn20172


									                             Department of Philosophy
                                 Ryerson University
                    PHL 503 Moral Philosophy: Classical and Modern
                                      Fall 2009
                                     Section 011

Robert Murray
413 Jorgenson Hall
979-5000 ext. 6160      Please use email to make appointments, ask for more
information, to express any of your concerns, or course management issues more
generally. Philosophy is best discussed in person during office hours or lecture
discussions. Lecture notes, essay topics, etc. will be posted on blackboard.

Office Hours: Mondays 1:30-4:00, Thursdays 12:00-2:00, Fridays 10:00-12:00.
Appointments can be made for other times and on other days.

Course Description: This course is an upper-level, liberal studies elective. We will
study several moral theorists in the western tradition. In particular, we will read and
discuss selected writings from Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant,
and John Stuart Mill. In light of the world-views of their day, these philosophers aimed
to understand and explain the basis of our moral convictions. Their different moral
theories are premised on different theories of the self, human nature, the universe, and
our place in it. Together they represent part of an intellectual history running from
classical Greece, through the scientific revolution, and well into the early modern period.
Their writings still raise the same questions: how is are moral convictions related to
human nature, social construction, the search for happiness, religion, a social contract,
moral sentiment, or reason? We will be interested to read Hobbes, Hume, Kant, and Mill
as responses to the scientific revolution, which seemed to many to have important
implications for moral theory. Although we study a tradition, we will be mindful of the
relevance of its ideas to us in our times. You will be required to address the
philosophical questions raised in this course and to articulate your views on them in your
essays and final exam.
I will expect the content of your essays and exam to have strong logical connections
with the course readings, lecture discussions, and the general approach employed in
the course for articulating and evaluating philosophical positions. As you would
expect, you will be graded accordingly.

Course Approach: Although these are pressing issues, we should approach them in an
informed and judicious manner. Ideally, we would commit ourselves to philosophical
attitudes only after careful and informed deliberation. It is too late for that, of course, as
our attitudes are already largely formed. For the purposes of this course, however, we
will adapt an attitude of Socratic reserve, until such time as our own attitudes are shown
to be warranted. The development of our explications and arguments might seem slow
and painstaking at times, but that is the way of Philosophy. Indeed, if our philosophical
attitudes are to be fully informed and inclusive, then we would have to understand and
articulate the attitudes we disagree with, the very ones which challenge our own

Course Delivery: The lectures are based on the course readings, and they will be
conducted in a so-called Socratic style. We will attempt to articulate the essential
insights, concepts, and arguments of the text through lectures, questions, and discussions.

Class Participation: You are encouraged but not required to contribute to the classroom
discussions. If you want to contribute to classroom discussions, be mindful of your
peers. Done properly, contributing to classroom discussions develops and practices
important skills for professional careers, including the capacity for rational and
reasonable dialogue about charged and complex issues. If you would rather not
contribute to the classroom discussions, however, bear in mind that you sufficiently
demonstrate your involvement in a course by thinking your way through the course
material and expressing your thoughts privately on your essays and final exam. In fact,
most of us should think more and say less.

Attendance: Attendance is not monitored, but given the difficulty of the reading
material, and your busy schedules, it is difficult to do well in this course without
attending regularly. Rather than trying to figure out the readings on your own, you would
make far more efficient use of your time to regularly attend the lectures.

Required Texts: You will need a copy of (1) Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. The
bookstore has ordered a copy translated by Martin Ostwald and published by Prentice
Hall. You will also need a copy of (2) Thomas Hobbes’ Man and Citizen, (3) David
Hume’s Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, and (4) John Stuart Mill’s
Utilitarianism. The bookstore has ordered copies of (2)-(4) from Hackett Publishing. I
will also give you a small set of readings from Immanuel Kant. Any version of these
readings will do, but the ones cited above will be more convenient in terms of citations
during the lectures.

Course Requirements: Your first essay of 1000-1300 words is worth 30% and is due by
class on Friday, October 16; your second essay of 1300-1600 words is worth 35% and is
due by class on Friday, November 20. A two hour comprehensive exam worth 35% will
be scheduled during the exam period. You are required to submit copies of your essays
to and hard copies of your essays to me. Those who are not going to use
turnitin must inform me in writing before the essay due date and provide an electronic
copy of their essays as well as a hard copy. Late essays can be submitted in the essay
drop box on the fourth floor of Jorgenson Hall across from the elevators.

Essay Topics and Exam Questions: The first essay topics will be available by the end
of the week of Sept. 28; the second essay topics will be available during by the end of the
week of October 26. Examples of the sorts of questions you will be asked on your final
exam will be available by the end of the week of November 16. If you are not clear about
what is expected of you ask for clarification.
Evaluation Scheme: Essays will be evaluated not only with respect to their content, but
also with respect to their manner of exposition. Essays are to be clear, complete, concise,
organized, and thoughtful. It is important to demonstrate clarity of organization and
expression, persuasiveness of reasoning, grammar, and syntax. More complete
instructions will be included with the essay assignments.

Length Restrictions: You must provide a word count for the body of your essay,
including quotations. One mark is taken off your essay for every 1-50 words over the
limit. The point of this exercise is to force a judicious editing and efficiency of
expression in your essays. If you want to include more information in your essays, you
can always use footnotes or endnotes, which do not factor into word counts.

Final Exam: There will be a two-hour final exam during the exam period worth 35%.
The exam will be cumulative and will require short answers (4-8 sentences) and short
essay-style answers (200-400 words). The format of the final exam and sample questions
will be posted by the tenth week of classes.

Help: Anyone having trouble understanding the course readings or lectures is
encouraged to raise the relevant questions during the lectures or to visit me during office
hours. Anyone feeling anxious about his or her essay is encouraged to visit me during
office hours with either an essay outline or draft. Anyone feeling anxious about the final
exam is invited to do the sample questions and visit me during office hours.

Penalties: Late essays are subject to a late penalty of 3 percentage points per day—the
weekend counts as one day. The penalty for plagiarism is 0 for the essay, a letter to the
registrar’s office, and a failure in the course. Students are reminded that they are required
to adhere to all relevant University policies including the student code of conduct.

Faculty Course Survey: A Faculty Course Survey will be provided or posted. These
surveys provide students with an opportunity to evaluate several aspects of a course and
to provide feedback its instructor.

Any changes in this course outline must be discussed in class and agreed upon.
Tentative Schedule:

Weeks starting the date of:   Readings and Course Information:

1. Sept. 8                    Introduction
2. Sept. 14                   Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics Book One (1-5, 7-9, 13)

3. Sep. 21                 Aristotle Book Two, Book Three (1-5)
4. Sept. 28                Aristotle Book Five (you needn’t read), Book Six
                           First Essay Topics Available
5. Oct. 5                  Aristotle Book Eight (1-4, 7, 9-11)
6. Oct. 12                 Hobbes Man and Citizen (On Man, pp. 35-85)
First Essay Due on Friday Oct. 16—worth 30%
7. Oct. 19                 Hobbes Man and Citizen (On Man)
8. Oct. 26.                Hobbes Man and Citizen (The Citizen, chap. 1, pp. 109-33)
                           Second Essay Topics Available
9. Nov. 2                  Hume An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
10. Nov. 9                 Hume An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
11. Nov. 16                Kant (class hand out)
Second Essay Due Friday, Nov. 20—worth 35%
Format of Final Exam and Sample Questions Available
12. Nov. 23                Mill Utilitarianism
13. Nov. 30                Mill Utilitarianism
                           There is a two hour class on Friday, December 4.
Two-hour comprehensive exam scheduled during exam period—worth 35%
Course Management Policies:

Alternate Arrangements for Missed Deadlines:

Proper Notice: Students shall inform their instructor, in advance, when they will miss an
assignment deadline for (1) medical or (2) compassionate reasons. When circumstances
do not permit this (e.g., in an emergency) the student must inform the instructor as soon
as possible. Alternate arrangements may include the setting of a make-up test or
extending a deadline. Ryerson University’s complete policy concerning alternate
arrangements for medical and compassionate reasons may be found at

Medical Considerations: In order for alternate arrangements to be made on medical
grounds, the student must supply the instructor with a Ryerson Medical Certificate, or a
letter on letterhead from a physician with the student declaration portion of the Ryerson
Medical Certificate attached. The Ryerson Medical Certificate may be found at

Compassionate Considerations: In order for alternate arrangements to be made on
compassionate grounds, the student must supply the instructor with documentation
supporting the claim, where possible.

Religious and Spiritual Observance: Students who need alternate arrangements because
of religious or spiritual observances should consult policy 150
Some examples of circumstances that typically fail to qualify for consideration are: extra-
curricular activities, employment obligations, multiple deadlines, and computer

Academic Misconduct: Ryerson University’s Student Code of Academic Conduct treats
cheating and plagiarism (the misrepresentation of somebody else’s work or ideas as your
own) as forms of academic misconduct. For detailed information concerning academic
misconduct and the relevant penalties, see or Additional information will be given on the essay
assignments. Students should be aware that it is their responsibility to know Ryerson’s
policy on academic misconduct. This policy will be strictly enforced in this course.
Ignorance of the policy will not be accepted as an excuse.

Students should be aware that the instructor reserves the right to conduct an oral
examination on the contents of any submitted assignment.

Grade Appeals: You have the right to appeal your assignment and course grades. For
information see

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