Cphl503-bao syllabus

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Division of Continuing Education

Department of Philosophy

Ryerson University

Spring 2012

CPHL503-BAO Syllabus

Professor: Dr. Victoria I. Burke

Course Time: F 18:00-21:30 PM

Course Location: KHE323A

Email: victoria.burke@ryerson.ca

Ancient and Modern Ethics

Aristotle’s opening of the Nicomachean Ethics is well-known: “Every craft and every line of inquiry, and likewise every action and decision, seems to seek some good …” And, he tells us, the good at which political science aims is the highest of all goods, eudaimonia, or flourishing (or, as it is sometimes translated: happiness). After examining some of the paradoxes inherent in the idea of value outlined by Plato, we will turn to the many ways in which Aristotle’s ancient ethical theory provides a fertile conceptual framework for thinking about what is good and valuable in human life. What does it mean for a human being to flourish? We will discuss Aristotle’s treatment of the virtues, and his account of practical wisdom. What is involved in ethical deliberation? What does it mean to aim for the mean between excess and deficiency with regard to practical matters? We will also discuss Aristotle’s account of the way in which friendship is necessary to a good life. After an examination of Aristotle’s ethics, we will consider recent appropriations of Aristotle in selections from Nussbaum, McDowell, and MacIntyre that exhibit the ways in which Aristotle’s thought is vital to ethical theory today. In the modern era, the idea of happiness came to be criticized by Kant who focused his ethical theory on autonomy and freedom. Our freedom makes us unlike any other animal in that we have the power to go against our impulses and act in accord with the moral law. This will not always involve doing what makes us happy. Hegel thought that we can lead a free, ethical life only the right type of society. In the modern state, we are enabled to affirm the institutions that Hegel says secure our freedom. In part, our freedom comes from recognizing ourselves and others as free. How is ethical life, as Hegel conceived it, different from Aristotle’s conception of flourishing? What did Kant mean by “an end in-itself”? How is it different from the way in which Aristotle conceived of flourishing as an end in itself with intrinsic value? What is ethical naturalism? What is internalism? What is teleology? The ancient notion of happiness or flourishing transformed with the modern notions of autonomy and freedom and the emergence of the centrality of the subject. We will analyze this transformation in detail, as well as the basic vocabulary used by ethical theorists concerned with normativity and practical reason. We will also examine the difference between ancient and modern notions of happiness.

Required Texts:

Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, Edited by Stephen M. Cahn and Peter Markie (ISBN 978-0-19-979726-4, 5th edition). All page numbers on course schedule are from this text, unless I indicate that the material is a photocopy.
*Note on Text: There are multiple editions of this book. The previous edition, the 4th edition, has all the readings from this book required for this course (other than those from the photocopy packet). You may be able to get it on the used book market more cheaply than the current new 5th edition.
Photocopy Packet
Obtaining course texts: The textbook and the photocopy packet are available in the university bookstore at the corner of Gould & Victoria Streets.
Course Requirements: Students will be assessed on the basis of two short essays (5-6 pages each), class participation, and a Final Examination.

Plato/Aristotle Paper (5-6 pages): 25%

Kant Paper (5-6 pages): 25%

Class Participation: 15%

Final Examination: 35%

Guidelines for submitting written work: The essay must be submitted on white 8.5 x 11 paper, typed double-spaced. Students must keep a copy of their work for their own files in case the paper should become lost. If the paper becomes lost (by the student, the department secretary, or the Instructor), it is the student's responsibility to be able to replace it. Papers may not be submitted electronically via e-mail or by fax. Students will be penalized 10% per day for every day that the paper is late. For footnoting or citation style use Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Style, or APA Style. Any of the standard style sheets is fine, as long as you are consistent.
Readings and Lectures: Students should read the assigned material prior to class, and should bring the texts to class as class will involve careful and close examination of the readings. Students will be assessed on the basis of their comprehension and synthesis of both the reading material and class sessions.
Email: Theoretical questions will not be answered on email. Students must make use of class time and office hours to have their questions answered. Only short administrative questions will be answered on email. You can expect an answer within 48 hours.
Ecologically friendly writing assignments: In the interest of maintaining an ecologically sound course, cover sheets are not required on the assignments. Put your name and student number at the top of the first page and start the essay one quarter of the way down the page. Do not include a bibliography. External sources are not permitted on the analysis papers, and it is presumed you are using the course texts. Put the page citation for references in brackets within the text after the quotation. Example: (Fraser, Rethinking Recognition, 234). Recently some students have been using slightly off-white recycled paper rather than brilliant white paper. This is encouraged. It is encouraged for students to use recycled paper.
Deadlines: The deadlines for the two short essay assignments are May 14, 2012 and May 23, 2012. . 10% will be subtracted from the student’s grade for every day that the paper is late. Medical Documentation is required to turn in assignments late without penalty.
Blackboard: This course will have a Blackboard site where all handouts will be posted. Please check the Blackboard site regularly for announcements. The Powerpoint Presentations will also be posted on the Blackboard site.

Course Schedule


April 30: Course Introduction; Plato; Aristotle

Reading: Plato, Euthyphro, pp. 5-16; Defense of Socrates, pp. 16-33; Nicomachean Ethics, Bk I; Bk II, 1-7; Bk III, 1-7

May 2: Aristotle

Readings: Nicomachean Ethics, Bk V, 1,2, 7, 10; Bk VI, 1-3, 8, 12; Bk VII, 1-3; Bk VIII, 1-3, 9; Bk X, 4-9 (note that not all the paragraphs in the textbook are required reading, only those listed here); Nussbaum, “Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach,” pp. 704-24; Nussbaum Frontiers of Justice, pp. 155-173 (photocopy)

*Instructions for Plato/Aristotle Paper posted by this date


May 7: Aristotle Commentaries

Readings: McDowell, “Values and Secondary Qualities,” pp. 722-33; McDowell, “Virtue and Reason” (photocopy)

May 9: Aristotle Commentaries

Readings: McDowell, “Some Issues in Aristotle’s Moral Psychology,” pp. 23-49 (photocopy); MacIntyre, “The Nature of the Virtues,” pp. 423-438 (photocopy); Hursthouse, ‘Virtue Theory and Abortion,” pp. 849-863


May 14: Kant

Readings: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, pp. 313-52

*Plato/Aristotle paper due

May 16: Kant Commentaries

Readings: Korsgaard, “Skepticism About Practical Reason,” pp. 743-747; The Sources of Normativity,” pp. 494-511 (photocopy); O’Neill, “Consistency in Action,” pp. 613-29; O’Neill, ‘A Kantian Approach to World Hunger,” pp. 600-606 (photocopy)


May 21: Victoria Day Holiday (no class)

May 23: Mill & Mill Commentary

Readings: Mill, Utilitarianism, pp. 362-96; Williams, “A Critique of Utilitarianism, pp. 657-73; Matheny, “Utilitarianism and Animals,” pp. 333-341 (photocopy)

*Kant paper due


May 28: Hegel

Readings: Houlgate, “History and Truth,” pp. 4-25; Wood, Hegel’s Ethical Thought, pp. 30-35; Philosophy of Right, “Introduction,” pp. 14-36; “Ethical Life,” pp. 105-40 (all photocopies)

May 30: Hegel

Readings: Russon, “The Contradictions of Moral Life,” pp. 147-156; Padgett-Walsh, “Reasons Internalism, Hegelian Resources,” pp. 225-24 (all photocopies)


June 4: Nietzsche

Readings: Nietzsche, Genealogy, “Preface” #3, 6; “First Treatise” #2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13; “Second Treatise” #2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22; “Third Treatise” #1, 5, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24 (note that not all the paragraphs in the textbook are required reading, only those listed here)

*Study Guide for the final exam posted

June 6: Review for Final Exam: from the ancient idea of happiness to the modern idea of freedom

(no new readings)


June 11: Comprehensive Final Exam

Bibliography for Photocopy Packet
Hegel, G.W.F Philosophy of Right. Trans. T.M. Knox. London: Oxford University Press, 1967. pp. 14-36; 105-140. ISBN: 0-19-500276-8; 382 pp.
Houlgate, Stephen. “History and Truth.” An Introduction to Hegel: Freedom, Truth, and History. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. pp. 4-25. ISBN 0-631-23063-7; pp. 314.
Korsgaard, Christine. “The Sources of Normativity.” Ethics: Classical Western Texts in Feminist and Multicultural Perspectives. Ed. James P. Sterba. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. pp. 494-511. ISBN: 0-19-512726-9; 700 pp.
MacIntyre, Alisdair. “The Nature of the Virtues.” Ethics: Classical Western Texts in Feminist and Multicultural Perspectives. Ed. James P. Sterba. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. pp. 423-438. ISBN: 0-19-512726-9; 700 pp.
Matheny, Gaverick. “Utilitarianism and Animals.” Disputed Moral Issues. Ed. Mark Timmons. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, 333-342; ISBN 978-0-19-538872-5; 680 pp.
McDowell, John. “Virtue and Reason.” Mind, Value, and Reality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. pp. 50-73. ISBN: 0674007131; 416 pp.
Nussbaum, Martha. Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. The Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006, 155-173. ISBN: 0-674-01917-2; 487 pp.
O’Neill, Onora. ‘A Kantian Approach to World Hunger.” Disputed Moral Issues. Ed. Mark Timmons. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001,” 600-606; ISBN 978-0-19-538872-5; 680 pp.
Padgett-Walsh, Kate. “Reasons Internalism, Hegelian Resources.” Journal of Value Inquiry 44: 2, June 2010, 225-240.
Russon, John. “The Contradictions of Moral Life: Hegel’s Critique of Kant.” Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. pp. 147-156. ISBN 0-253-34421-2; 299 pp.
Wood, Allen W. Hegel’s Ethical Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990. pp. 30-35. ISBN 0-521-37432-4; 293 pp.


a. You must inform me of any situation which arises during the semester which may have an adverse effect upon their academic performance; you must request any necessary considerations (e.g. medical or compassionate), or accommodations [e.g. religious observance, disability (should be registered with the Access Center), etc.] according to policies and well in advance. Failure to do so will jeopardize any academic appeals.

b. Medical Certificates – medical certificates for deadlines, tests and exams missed due to illness must be provided. (See the policy for the details and www.ryerson.ca/rr/medical.pdf for the certificate). Such documents should normally be submitted within 3 working days of a missed assignment, test or exam.

c. Religious Observance – requests are to be made formally within the first two weeks of class. (See www.ryerson.ca/acadcouncil/current/pol150.pdf )
d. Regrading and Recalculation – Must be requested within 10 working days of the return of the graded assignment to the class. These are not grounds for an appeal, but are matters for discussion between the student and the instructor.
Academic Conduct – Refer to www.ryerson.ca/acadcouncil/current/pol60.pdf:

Policy 60 - Student Code of Academic Conduct: The code of academic conduct will be rigorously enforced.

Student E- Mail Account - Refer to www.ryerson.ca/acadcouncil/current/pol157.pdf

Policy 157 - Establishment of Student E-Mail Accounts for Official University Communication - Since faculty will be able to get a complete e-mail list from CCS for each class, it is important that students know that they are to obtain and maintain a Ryerson Matrix e-mail account.

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