Sunday, December 29, 2019

Philosophy 2245: General Ethics


PHIL 2245-N: General Ethics (Seminar)                                                   
Instructor:  Glen Brown  E-mail:

Required Text:
DeNicola, Daniel R. Moral Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction. Ontario, Canada: Broadview Press, 2019. ISBN: 978-1-55481-354-4

Course Description: "General Ethics" investigates normative theories of human action. It looks critically at what philosophers say that human beings should do.  Unlike "Business Ethics" and "Biomedical Ethics," which seek to provide a moral guidance in respect of certain discrete domains of human action (viz., "business" and "medicine" respectively), “General Ethics” seeks to provide moral guidance applicable to all domains of human action.

General Education Goals:  The General Education Curriculum Committee has designated PHIL 2245 to count in fulfillment of Benedictine University’s requirement of one course in the “Philosophical Mode of Inquiry” as a condition for completion of a baccalaureate degree.  Here is a general description of courses in the Philosophical mode:

Philosophy, meaning “love of wisdom,” endeavors to address the deepest and most enduring human questions and to do so on the basis of reason alone.  Philosophical inquiry trains the mind to think clearly and moves students to love learning and the “examined life.”  Philosophical inquiry generally interrogates the assumptions and presuppositions that other academic disciplines take as axiomatic or “given.” Philosophical inquiry at Benedictine engages the Catholic philosophical tradition in a substantial way but in a way that draws upon wider historical, general, and global philosophical trends.  While philosophical inquiry helps to prepare students for professional careers and for graduate study, it tends to be centered not on vocational ends, but rather on the enrichment of the student’s intellect through both the engagement with core texts and the cultivation of critical thinking and analysis.

Modes of inquiry courses align with the General Education Essential Student Learning Goals identified for that mode.  For courses in the Philosophical Mode, these Goals are as follows:

1a – Critical Thinking + Analysis 
2a – Oral & Written Communication
6a – Intellectual Curiosity
7a – Humanistic knowledge, theories, and methods
8a – Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Philosophy Program Outcomes: Through coursework in Benedictine University's Philosophy Program, students develop proficiency in respect of three key Learning Outcomes:
1. Produce a plausibly cogent line of philosophical argument (logically speaking) with a significant (non-trivial) conclusion.
                    2. Show comprehension and critical engagement of key ideas and arguments within classic philosophical theories.
             3. Demonstrate knowledge of key doctrines of distinguished philosophers.

IDEA Outcomes:
8.  Developing skill in expressing oneself orally or in writing (Important)
10.  Developing ethical reasoning and/or ethical decision-making (Essential)
11.  Learning to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view (Important)

Other Student Outcomes:                                           
1)     Understand theoretical knowledge of general ethics as a foundation for “practical knowledge about how we ought to live”
2)     Determine the objective grounds of general ethics and show the ability to justify moral beliefs
3)     Make informed ethical decisions that promote personal integrity, the respect for legitimate rights, the aspirations of individuals and groups, and the common good
4)     Develop a vocabulary used in the philosophy of ethics and morality
5)     Analyze, synthesize, and argue effectively through use of deductive and inductive reasoning
6)     Distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims; determine the factual accuracy of statements and beliefs; detect bias and fallacious reasoning often found in argumentation
7)     Apply rhetorical strategies to appeal to a specific audience: ethos—an appeal to credibility; logos—an appeal to reason; and pathos—an appeal to one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions
8)     Demonstrate an understanding of the writing process by proofreading each essay for errors and omissions of both form and substance; by revising and restructuring where ideas are poorly organized or where evidence is lacking; and by correcting for errors in syntax, usage, punctuation, spelling, and style
9)     Synthesize ideas skillfully through effective organization and emphasis of ideas
10)   Connect ideas logically and clearly through a variety of sentence structures
11)   Develop complex theses with thoughtfulness and clarity, using Chicago, MLA, or APA documentation 
12)   Demonstrate grammatical, syntactical, and stylistic mastery

Classroom Etiquette: As we work together to create a classroom environment that is both conducive to learning and welcoming of all members of the class, students are expected to adhere to appropriate standards of behavior for an academic environment. 

Guidelines for respectful, constructive and inclusive philosophical discussion: The guidelines below are intended primarily for oral philosophical discussion in formal settings: colloquia, conferences, seminars, classes, and so on… The specific norms are intended as means of facilitating more general norms of being respectful, constructive, and inclusive.

Norms of respect: 1. Please be courteous. 2. Do not interrupt. 3. Do not present objections as flat dismissals (leave open the possibility that there's other responses). 4. Do not be incredulous. 5. Do not roll your eyes, make faces, laugh at a participant. 6. Do not start side conversations parallel to the main discussion. 7. Acknowledge your interlocutor's insights. 8. Object to theses, do not object to people.

Norms of inclusiveness: 1. Please do not dominate the discussion. 2. Raise one question per question (follow-ups are okay, but questions on different topics go to the back of the queue). 3. Try not to let your question (or your answer) run on forever. 4. Acknowledge points made by previous questioners. 5. It is okay to ask a question that you think may be unsophisticated or uninformed. 6. Do not use unnecessarily offensive examples. 7. Do not try to impress others. (

Attendance and Participation: Because I believe everyone has something to contribute to our class, I also believe that we are all responsible for attending college classes, which are forums for the exchange of varying beliefs, values, and assumptions. A student’s education is not an isolated and anti-social event. It is a reciprocation of mutual interests and goals. Please take responsibility for your education and learning.  It is a profound opportunity and privilege that many people do not have, and it should never be squandered. Although I believe that not everything valuable in a class can be assessed through tests, quizzes and essays, or should be, I am emphasizing the values of commitment and the responsibility to that obligation as part of a classroom community of teachers and learners. Therefore, attend our class!

Our discussions are dependent upon the contributions of each individual. In any class, a participating audience is indispensable for its success. In this way, we are all participants in one another’s education and opportunity for learning. Thus, partake fully in our philosophical discussions. Take notes during discussions and lectures for metacognition and for your final exam. Note: your ability to articulate your opinions in each class will also determine the difference between borderline grades. Participation in class is an essential requirement for earning an “A” or “B.”  Please understand that if you come to class without your materials and/or reveal that you did not read the assignment, you will be recorded absent.  If you are working on an assignment for another class or surfing the internet on your iPhone or laptop during our class, you will be recorded absent.

It is imperative that you use your absences legitimately and wisely!  Please note that more than two absences (or four semester classes) will affect your final grade. Each subsequent absence will lower your final grade one full grade.  Note: three late arrivals (more than five minutes each time) will also equal one absence. If you are seriously ill and a contagion (e.g. you have the flu) or have an emergency, please notify me by e-mail ( that you will be late or absent. Note: if you are absent the day an essay is due, or class is canceled due to weather (or for any other reasons), send your essay to me via e-mail by 9:20 pm.

Technology Requirement: While a laptop can be a useful aide for your education, it can also be a hindrance to discussion.  If you bring a laptop or smart phone to class, please keep them closed.

Academic Honesty:  The search for truth and the dissemination of knowledge are the central missions of a university.  Benedictine University pursues these missions in an environment guided by the Roman Catholic tradition and Benedictine heritage.  Integrity and honesty are, therefore, expected of all members of the University community, including students, faculty members, administration, and staff.  Actions such as cheating, plagiarism, collusion, fabrication, forgery, falsification, destruction, multiple submission, solicitation, and misrepresentation are violations of these expectations and constitute unacceptable behavior in the University community.  The penalties for such actions can range from a private verbal warning to expulsion from the University.  Violations will be reported to the Provost, and a permanent record of this infraction will be noted.  The University’s Academic Honesty Policy is available at http:/, and all students are expected to read and understand it.

Plagiarism is defined as the act of stealing ideas and/or the expressions from another person or source and representing them as your own work.  This includes quotations, paraphrasing, and the summarizing of another person’s ideas without proper documentation.  Furthermore, unless you have the explicit permission of the instructor, reusing your own work from other courses is considered self-plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a form of cheating and academic misconduct that can jeopardize your course grade and college career.  Remember to clearly distinguish between your own ideas and those you have read or heard elsewhere.  Be sure to include a works cited page with any paper in which you consult outside sources.  All typed assignments submitted for evaluation will be graded with the assumption that the student has read and understands the plagiarism statements and guidelines. Committing any form of plagiarism will result in a grade of “0” on the assignment in question and is grounds for failure of the course or further action by the University.  If there are any questions or concerns regarding plagiarism and the documentation of sources, it is your responsibility to consult the instructor. 

Conferences:  You have the opportunity to meet with me during my office hours and to discuss your compositions in progress, to receive help with the course material, to address questions and discussions raised in class, or to talk about any other concerns.  

Academic Accommodations for Religious Obligations (AAFRO): A student whose religious obligation conflicts with a course requirement may request an academic accommodation from the instructor.  Students must make such requests in writing by the end of the first week of the class.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): If you have a documented learning, psychological or physical disability, you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations or services.  To request accommodations or services, please contact Danielle Bank at or Dawn Cappelli for assistance in the Academic and Career Enrichment Center, Goodwin Hall 214 at 630-829-6041. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements.  The University will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Title IX: Benedictine University prohibits sexual misconduct, consistent with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and other applicable state and federal laws.  Faculty members are considered responsible employees under these statutes and are required to report any incidents to the Title IX coordinator.  If you have any questions, contact the Title IX Coordinator.  Additional information about reporting sexual misconduct on campus please and Title IX can be found at

Writing Assistance: For help with your writing, please visit the Academic Career and Enrichment Center in Goodwin, 214.

Students are responsible for the information in this syllabus and should ask for clarification for anything they do not understand. Students are expected to be partners in their educational experience and to periodically monitor their progress in the course. Students may check grade status through D2L course site Gradebook. Student grades will be posted in D2L in a reasonable amount of time, usually within one week of turning them in. The End of Add/Drop Course Changes/Late Registration is Jan. 19th; the Last Day to Withdraw from Classes is Mar. 29th.

Course Requirements & Distribution of Earned Points:

Five Response Essays (75 pts. each):                                     375 points
Five In-Class Essay Quizzes (25 pts. each)                            125 points
Final Exam (20% of Semester Grade)                                    100 points
                                                                                                600 points

Grading Guidelines/Rubric: The following descriptions are the basis for evaluation of all student compositions:

The “A” compositions are outstanding. They are eloquent, sophisticated, insightful, and emphatic in providing a convincing, arresting argument.  Analyses are well supported by quotations and paraphrases from the textbook and usually include one or more secondary sources. The compositions are focused, organized, well-connected, critical, interesting, informative, lucid, original, and surprising. The compositions contain only minor mechanical errors, if any, and no significant lapses in diction or organization. Proper documentation and a Works Cited Page are provided.

The “B” compositions do more than fulfill the assignment, though they are not exceptional or outstanding.  The compositions go beyond a routine response and show evidence of careful thought and planning.  Like the “A” papers, these compositions are focused, effective, consistently written, tightly organized, and supported by quotations and paraphrases from the textbook.  Moreover, the compositions contain no major distracting errors in usage or mechanics and are well-developed with good supporting material and transitions.  The compositions are also clear, free of jargon, and appealing. Proper documentation and a Works Cited Page are provided.

The “C” compositions are acceptable, but they are average responses that complete the assignment in a “routine way.” In other words, they show evidence of engagement with an argument but make a minimum response to it. The compositions contain few distracting errors and few glaring platitudes or egregious mistakes in diction. The reader can follow and understand without difficulty, but the compositions are not vigorous, nor the ideas well-developed, convincing, original, and inspiring. Proper documentation and a Works Cited Page are provided.

The “D” compositions relate to the assignment but also show no evidence of any engagement with an argument. The compositions are not coherent or unified in purpose. They are also marred by enough errors in syntax and mechanics to seriously distract the reader and by vague, ambiguous diction and syntax that make it difficult to understand the content or the direction of the argument. The compositions might also be a weak because they do not complete the required length or fulfill the requirements of the assignment. 

The “F” compositions show little relation to or engagement with an argument.  They show very little thought and are so poorly constructed and carelessly written that the reader cannot follow the sequence of ideas. Moreover, the compositions are marred by so many errors in mechanics and usage that the message is extremely difficult to decipher.  It is evident these compositions do not complete the required length or fulfill the requirements of the assignment. Note: a plagiarized paper, in part or whole, receives an “F” and “0” points.  (See Academic Honesty).

All response essays are evaluated accordingly:
1.  Content or ideas: their significance, clarity, development, and relevance to purpose;
2.  Organization: structure or rhetorical methods used;
3.  Personal style: voice and tone, originality and interest;
4.  Vocabulary and diction: the choice and arrangement of words to convey meaning;
5.  Mechanics: usage, syntax, punctuation, and spelling.

A 90-100%, B 80-89%, C 70-79%, D 60-69%, F -59% 


Directions for Your Essays:

ü  The purpose of these essays is for you to come prepared and to contribute to our class discussions; moreover, our class is “writing intensive.”
ü  The essays are a minimum of 2 pages in length (2 ½ - 3 full pages are preferable); use 12-pt.; type and double-space your composition.
ü  The essay should have at least one thoughtful question you formulated after reading the assignment (your argument/thesis) and your developed and insightful response to it. You may use “Questions for Discussion” or “For Personal Reflection” as your thoughtful question or the prompt I provide.
ü  Include quotations and paraphrases from the text for substantiation of proof! This is imperative. Use proper documentation as well.
ü  If you are using secondary sources, include a works cited page.
ü  You may use 1st person point of view; do not use 2nd person point of view.
ü  Review attached document: “More Guidelines for Writing Your Essays.”

PHIL 2245-N General Ethics

Jan. 13 Welcome to Philosophy 245…

Jan. 20 No Classes (In Honor of Martin Luther King)

Jan. 27: Chaps 1 & 2 Ethical Theory & Moral Concerns/Morality & Religion
(Divine Command Theory/Moral Absolutism: Augustine and Aquinas, et al.)

*Feb. 3: Chap. 3 Relativism, Subjectivism, Pluralism, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Feb 10: Chap. 4 Moral Naturalism & Natural Rights, Humanity & Morality
(Epicurus, Aristotle, Aquinas, Wilson, et al.)

Feb 17: Chap. 5 Psychological & Ethical Egoism, Altruism (Hobbes, Smith, Rand)

*Feb.24: Chap. 6 Utilitarianism (Rule & Act), Consequentialist Ethics, Hedonism (Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick, Moore)

Mar. 2: Chap. 7 Kantianism/Deontological (Rule & Act) Ethics, Categorical Imperatives (Kant, Sidgwick, Ross)

*Mar. 9: Chap. 8 Contractarianism, Contracts & Consent, Social Contract Theory (Hobbes, Locke, Rawls)

Mar. 16: (Spring Break)

Mar. 23: Chap. 9 Virtue Ethics/Character Traits (Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hartmann) and Chap. 10 Emotive Ethics: Emotions and Moral Sentiment (Hume, Smith)

Mar. 30: Chap. 12 Particularism & Ethical Intuitionism (Nussbaum, Haidt)

Apr. 6: Chap. 13 Metaethics: Ethical Cognitivism, Ethical Non-Cognitivism, Emotivism, Prescriptivism (Ayer, Stevenson, Hare, Bradley, Sharp)

Apr. 13: (Easter Monday)

*Apr. 20: “The Moral Instinct” an essay by Steven Pinker

*Apr. 27: Evolutionary Ethics: “The Biological Basis of Morality” an essay by Edward Wilson

May 4: Final Exam

*Essay Due
Quizzes are unannounced

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