What is philosophy? What do philosophers do? This course aims to introduce some important philosophical issues in moral philosophy in order to give you a glimpse of philosophy. It also aims to demonstrate that philosophy is not something that belongs only in the ivory tower but is relevant to our lives.
This course is divided into three parts:
Part 1 Moral Theories. The course will start with Relativism, aiming to show that relativism is not as convincing as it may appear to be. We will then discuss Consequentialism and Kantian Moral Philosophy, two theories that many moral philosophers use to approach moral issues.
Part 2 Topics in Moral Philosophy. We will then discuss some important topics in moral philosophy: prostitution, abortion, love, and meaning of life.
Part 3 Moral Philosophy under Fire. We will finish the course with a critique of moral philosophy. We will discuss how moral philosophy may have overlooked the importance of personal relationships, excluded women, and ignored other (non-moral) values.
At the end of the course, successful students will be able to:
(1) state and explain the main theses of philosophical texts;
(2) explain the relevance of morality to their lives in terms of the topics covered in this course;
(3) think critically about moral and social issues.
You do not need to buy any textbooks for this course. Most of the reading materials can be found on the library website in electronic form. Other reading materials can be downloaded from Connect or will be distributed in class under the fair use provisions.
Please read the assigned reading before coming to class. Doing the assigned reading and familiarizing yourself with the topic can facilitate the learning process and are essential to your in-class participation, which is an important component of the assessment.
Attendance is crucial to success in this course. This is not just because in-class participation is part of the assessment (details below), but also because participation is an essential part of the learning process. Other than regular small-group discussion sessions, there will often be learning activities in lectures. Self-study is important, but you can’t learn everything on your own. I therefore strongly encourage you to attend the lectures.
(1) Participation (15%)
(1.1) Reading Exercises
(2.1) Weekly (15%)
(2.2) Trial run (2%)
(2.3) To-be-marked (10%)
(3) Short Essay
(3.1) Peer Review (3%)
(3.2) Final Draft (25%)
(4) Final Exam (30%)
(1.1) Reading Exercises
Reading a philosophy article is very different from reading an academic article from other disciplines, and learning how to read philosophical texts is a key component of this course. Therefore, there will be reading exercises in almost every lecture. You will be asked to read a passage from the assigned reading and answer some questions (and perhaps also discuss with your classmates).
Please remember to bring the relevant reading to class. You may bring a printed copy, or an e-copy on your laptop or tablet. Please do not read it on your phone. I will strictly enforce this policy. It is very difficult to read an article on a phone, especially a philosophical article. Having an e-copy of the reading on your phone will therefore not count as bringing the reading to class.
Assessment will be based on (written) participation and attendance.
There will be weekly small group discussions on Fridays. Discussion is a very important component of this course. Please try your best not to miss any discussion sessions.
Assessment will be based on (written) participation and attendance. You may miss one weekly discussion without any participation mark deductions.
A precis succinctly states the main thesis of an article and summarizes the arguments supporting the main thesis.
(2.1) Weekly Precis
Each week, you need to write a precis for (one of the) papers discussed in that week. It won’t be marked, and you will receive credit as long as you have done it. Weekly precis are due every Monday in class on Connect.
From Week 2 to Week 3, you only need to state the main thesis of the article (40 words).
FromWeek 4 to Week 7, you need to state the main thesis and summarize the arguments (100 words).
From Week 8 to Week 12, you need to state the main thesis and summarizes the arguments (100 words), and then briefly evaluate one of the arguments (~50 words).
You may write more if you want to explore other issues relevant to the main thesis, but try to keep the thesis statement and argument summary part within 100 words. I also encourage you to keep your precis in one file or in a journal as they will come in handy when you study for the exam.
(Note that you don’t need to submit weekly thesis statements in the weeks that you need to submit the trial run and to-be-marked thesis statements.)
(2.2) Trial Run
In Week 5, you will submit a trial run precis (100 words) for the reading of the week. You will get credit for submission and you will be given a “mark” for your precis, but the “mark” is only to for your reference. That is, it won’t count towards your final mark. We will discuss this precis in class.
In Week 9, you will submit a to-be-marked precis. It will be marked by me, you will get a “real mark”, and you will receive comments on it.
(3) Short Essay
You will need to write a short end-of-term essay (1000 words). Topic and due date will be announced later in the term. This essay assignment has two components.
You should write a draft and bring it to class on 27 Nov (Monday, Week 13) for peer review. This will give you a chance to receive comments from your classmates and improve your draft. Be sure to be there.
(3.2) Final Draft
After receiving comments from your classmates, try to think carefully about the comments and revise your essay.
(4) Final Exam
Details will be announced later in the term.
Our course website is Connect. You can find the syllabus, lecture slides, and other reading materials there.
Interim Course Evaluation
A short and informal survey will be posted on Connect in Week 5. This is to let me know your thoughts and comments on the course materials, the lectures, the assignments, etc., and help me to improve the course. I encourage you to do the survey.
I do not hold regular office hours. However, you are always welcome to talk to me before/after class, write me an email, or arrange a meeting. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Plagiarism is a serious academic misconduct. It will not and should not be treated lightly. Please cite properly if you take any text from someone else. For details on UBC’s plagiarism policy and tips on avoiding plagiarism, please see http://www.calendar.ubc.ca/Vancouver/index.cfm?tree=3,54,111,959 and http://learningcommons.ubc.ca/resource-guides/avoiding-plagiarism/
Diversity and Inclusivity
Philosophy is for everyone. I encourage everyone to participate and contribute. I will also do my best to design the course and arrange the lectures in ways that give everyone a fair chance to participate and contribute. If you have any thoughts or comments on the course arrangements, you are always welcome to come talk to me in person or send me an email.
The University provides academic accommodations for students with disabilities. You can find more details on academic accommodations by contacting Access and Diversity or go to http://students.ubc.ca/success/student-supports/academic-accommodations#registerad. .
If you have any other concerns about assignment deadlines, missing classes, etc., please come and talk to me in advance, preferably one week in advance if possible.
Part 1: Moral Theories
James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”
Peter Singer, “All Animals Are Equal”
Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
Kantian Moral Philosophy
Onora O’Neil, “Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems”