Instructor: Gaura Rader

Email: gaura.rader@sfcollege.edu,

or gaurarader@gmail.com if the email is very time sensitive as I check this email more often.

Office: B-032H

Ethics, or moral philosophy, is centered on fundamental questions about the human experience and our place in the world—individuals and as members of a broader society. This introduction to ethics will cover the three main areas of moral philosophy: NORMATIVE ETHICS – which asks substantive questions about right and wrong actions, METAETHICS – which draws back to ask larger questions about the status of moral claims and properties, and APPLIED ETHICS – which involves reasoning about concrete ethical dilemmas and domains of human experience using the tools of logical reasoning and moral vocabulary developed earlier in the semester. Students will be challenged throughout to develop, refine, and defend their own answers to these enduring questions, both in writing and in conversation with their peers.


This course aims to give students an understanding of some major themes in moral philosophy. Which ethical questions have gripped people through the ages, and how have we attempted to answer them?

Beyond this, the course has broader objectives: introducing and strengthening skill in reading, analyzing, and interpreting contemporary philosophical texts, deconstructing and reconstructing arguments, formulating original criticism, and engaging in the dialectical process that moves any inquiry—especially philosophical inquiry—forward. The skills in this set have application well beyond philosophy: clarity and concision in writing, critical and analytical reading skills, and rigorously logical thought are skills students can expect to hone in this class.

General Education Learning Outcomes: General Education Learning Outcomes: Demonstrate the skills necessary for analysis, synthesis, evaluation, decision-making, critical and creative thinking, and the creative process.




Office hours are held on Tuesday and Thursday  1-2 pm or by appointment.

III – Course website and Textbooks

Online resources for this course are centralized on the main course webpage: http://philosophyintrocourse.com. Look for the “Introduction to Ethics” portion of the site.

Here you will find an overview of the course; a digital copy of the syllabus; a schedule of readings and assignments; archived handouts, and any reading for the course that does not come from the textbook.


There are two required texts for this class:

The Ethical Life, by Russ Shafer-Landau, 2011.

The Fundamentals of Ethics, by Russ Shafter-Landau, 2011.

Both texts are available for purchase at the campus bookstore.


The Elements of Style by Strunk and White


Class Participation (10%)

Your class participation grade with be determined according to the following grading rubric:


Class participation deserving of an A grade will be strong in most categories; Participation that is strong in some categories but needs development in other will receive a B; a grade of C reflects a need for development in most categories; D work is typically unsatisfactory in several categories; and F work, unsatisfactory in nearly all. I understand that class participation comes more naturally to some than other but regardless everyone needs to come prepared and make a significant effort to make contributions to the class discussion every class.


Reading Responses (30%)

At the beginning of class I will ask you to write for five minutes talking about each reading. The assignments will be graded as a 1 or a 0 i.e. pass/fail. . I will be lenient with the grading. You will get a 1 if it looks like you did the reading and put a reasonable amount of thought into trying to understand the material. You will get a 0 if it looks like you didn’t do the reading. Your final grade will be determined by the points you get on all the quizzes put together i.e. if we have 16 quizzes and you get 12/16 you will get a grade of 75%, or a C, for your quiz grade. If you have trouble answering the question write something explaining why you are having trouble answering the question and as long as it looks to me like you have done the reading I will give you credit. If I feel like anyone is attempting to abuse this policy, i.e claiming that they have done the reading when they have not, their grade will be very significantly adversely affected.


Papers (60%)

Papers will be graded according to the essay-grading rubric that you will be provided with. The way the rubric works is that there are ten criteria which will be used to grade your paper. You will receive a grade of 1-10 on each of the ten categories. Your 1-10 grade in each category will roughly reflect an appropriate letter grade for that category. Your final grade will be determined by the sum of your grades for the individual categories which will be used to determine your final letter grade for the assignment.

The rubric is provided primarily for your benefit. It should serve as a guide for how to write your essay because it shows you exactly what the criteria are that your paper will be graded on. Consult the rubric before you begin writing your essay and throughout the process as well. I will also provide you will some of material that will be of help to you when it comes time to write your essays.


There will be three papers.  The first two papers will be worth 15% each, and the third paper will be worth 30%.

Email submission. Please submit your short paper assignments via email attachment to gaurakisora.rader@sfcollege.edu with the subject heading “Your name – Paper #” (e.g. “Kelly Heuer – Paper 3”). Please save your paper in Word format with a file extension of .doc or .docx only. Do not submit papers in PDF format or pasted into the body of your email. The file should be saved with a title of your last name, followed by the paper number, with no spaces or dashes in between (e.g. “Heuer3.doc”).


If you miss more than one class (unexcused absences) you cannot get higher than a B. If you miss more than two classes you cannot get higher than a C. If you miss more than three classes you cannot get higher than a D.


Laptops: This class has a no-laptop policy. Discussion is an essential portion of the class. If you have special learning considerations that require the use of laptop for note-taking during class, please see the instructor for permission.

Preparation. Come to class prepared. This means having done the readings for the day, and having noted any questions you have or points you found particularly interesting or confusing.

Discussion: Respect your classmates by listening to what they have to say, and make an effort to respond to points raised by those who spoke before you rather than simply waiting your turn to blurt an opinion and consider your obligation to participate fulfilled. Please also be conscious of the balance of contributions in class—if you’ve spoken a lot, make an effort to cede the floor to less-vocal classmates who might be waiting to enter the conversation.

Lateness: Please be punctual. Attendance is taken promptly at the start of class, and lateness will result in a lowered participation grade.




Tuesday Oct 23rd

  • Introductions
  • What is Enlightenment?
  • Syllabus
  • Logic, Critical Thinking and Essay Writing
  • Essay grading rubric


Part I – Normative Ethics

Part I.A: Consequentialism

Thursday Oct 25th

  • FoE Introduction
  • FoE Chapter 9: Consequentialism – Its Nature and Attractions
  • EL Chapter 2: John Stuart Mill – Hedonism


Tuesday Oct 30th

  • FoE Chapter 10: Consequentialism – Its Difficulties
  • EL Chapter 10: JJC Smart – Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism


Part I.B: Kantian Ethics

Thursday Nov 1st

  • FoE Chapter 11: The Kantian Perspective – Fairness and Justice
  • FoE Chapter 12: The Kantian Perspective – Autonomy and Respect
  • EL Chapter 11: Kant – The Good Will and the Categorical Imperative


Tuesday Nov 6th

  • Allen Wood – Kantian Ethics (Excerpts) (course website)


Part I.C: Social Contract Theory

Thursday Nov 8th

  • FoE Chapter 13: The Social Contract Tradition: The Theory and Its Attractions
  • FoE Chapter 14: The Social Contract Tradition: Problems and Prospects
  • EL Chapter 12: Hobbes – Leviathan



Friday  Nov 9th First Essay Due (Utitarianism)


Tuesday Nov 13th

Jean Jacques Rousseau – The Social Contract (course website)


Part II: Applied Ethics

Thursday Nov 15th

  • EL Chapter 32: Judith Jarvis Thomson – A Defense of Abortion
  • EL Chapter 33: Don Marquis – Why Abortion is Immoral



Tuesday Nov 20th

  • Warren – On Legal and Moral Status of Abortion (course website)
  • Singer – Unsanctifying Human Life (course website)


Friday Nov 23rd Second Essay Due (Social Contract Theory and Kantian Ethics)


Tuesday Nov 27th

  • EL Chapter 29: Alasdair Norcross – Puppies, Pigs and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases
  • EL Chapter 22: Peter Singer – The Singer Solution to World Poverty



Thursday Nov 29th

  • EL Chapter 7: Plato – Euthyphro
  • FoE Chapter 5: Morality and Religion (pg. 64-68)
  • EL Chapter 16: Hume – Moral distinctions not derived from reason


Part IV – Political Philosophy

Tuesday Dec 4th


Thursday Dec 6th

  • TBA


Friday Dec 7th Third Essay Due (Applied Ethics)


Key Dates:

Friday  Nov 14th First Essay Due (Utilitarianism)

Friday Nov 28th Second Essay Due (Social Contract Theory  and Kantian Ethics)

Friday Dec 12th Third Essay Due (Applied Ethics)



Students with disabilities on record with the university that require special accommodation should contact the instructor by the end o the second week.


“Plagiarism” is defined as “the act of passing of as one’s own the ideas or writings of another,” whether or not one intended to do so. Any student found in violation of the honor code for cheating in this class will receive a failing grade for the course.

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