PHIL 31A, SPRING 2020 – 20309 – MON/WED 11 am, BCC Room 54, downstairs & to the right
Instructor: Eric Gerlach – firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 12:15 -1:15 pm @ K’s Coffee, nextdoor to BCC
Course Description: This course introduces the ethical thought of Egypt, India, Greece, China, Europe & their place in the history of human thought and our world. Readings for each lecture are posted at the top of each set of lecture notes.
Texts: Links to the online readings are posted at the top of each set of lecture notes.
Jan 22 – Introduction to the Class
Jan 27 & 29 – Egypt & Babylon
Feb 3 & 5 – Hindus & Jains of India
Feb 10 & 12 – Buddha
Feb 17 – NO CLASS – PRESIDENTS’ DAY
Feb 19 & Feb 24 – Heraclitus of Greece
Feb 26 – Aristotle
Mar 2 & 4 – Epicurus & the Stoics
Mar 9 & 11 – NO CLASS – WORK ON 1st PAPER
Mar 23 & 25 – Daoism
Mar 30 & Apr 1 – Kant
Apr 6 & 8 – Mill
Apr 13 & 15 – NO CLASS – SPRING BREAK
Apr 20 & 22 – NO CLASS – WORK ON 2nd PAPER
Apr 27 & 29 – Nietzsche
May 4 & 6 – Wittgenstein
May 11 & 13 – Fanon, hooks and Said
May 18 & 20 – NO CLASS – WORK ON FINAL PAPER
3 Essay Assignments
Two 4 page essays (2 x 25%) & a final 8 page paper (50%), typed, double-spaced and emailed to email@example.com. Focus on an issue we cover, clearly state and argue for your position with evidence, empathy, and examples from your life, history or fiction.
First Essay: Human cultures argue back and forth about whether or not there are objective, permanent standards of morality and ethics, much as the Egyptians believed that the harmony of the cosmos is permanent and the Buddha argued that all things are impermanent. Are there things that are objectively good or bad, and why? Make sure to use several examples from real life or hypothetical thought experiments, and anticipate objections and counterexamples of any possible opponents. (4 pages)
Second Essay: Pick one idea found in the Indian, Greek and Chinese thinkers we have studied, explain the idea using examples and apply it to an ethical problem we face in the world today to show that the idea is or is not useful for helping with the problem. Ideas we have covered include the Jain principles of skepticism, the Jain leaky boat, the Buddha’s middle way, Buddha’s codependent arising, Buddha’s monkey mind, Heraclitus’ wisdom in common, Heraclitus’ river twice, Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, Aristotle’s natural purposes, Epicurus’ happiness as the goal of life, Stoic acceptance of fate, Confucian compassion and balance, Mencius’ humanity as good, Xunzi’s humanity as evil, and Zhuangzi’s complementary opposites, as well as many more you can choose from. Ethical problems include poverty, war, theft, hunger, racism, ecological destruction and many other things we are all too familiar with. (4 pages)
Third Essay: Pick one idea found in the European and modern thinkers we have studied, explain the idea using examples and apply it to an ethical problem we face in the world today to show that the idea is or is not useful for helping with the problem. You can, if you wish, compare the contemporary ideas to earlier ideas found in the ancient thinkers we covered. Ideas include: Kant’s universal morals, Bentham’s maximizing happiness, Mill’s minimizing pain, Nietzsche’s individual interpretation, Wittgenstein, Fanon, hooks, Said. (8 pages)
Student Learning Outcomes – Upon completion of this class, students will be able to:
- Define the main ethical theories covered in the course.
- Analyze an ethical theory.
- Explain some prominent and on-going moral disagreements in our society.
General Student Requirements: Students are expected to come to class prepared to ask questions and participate in discussions. It is your responsibility to ask if you missed something; it is not the instructor’s responsibility to remind you. Please read through the syllabus and plan ahead.
Plagiarism, “to use another person’s ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source” (MLA Handbook, 5th ed., §1.8)—will not be tolerated. Plagiarists, intentional or inadvertent, will receive a zero on the assignment in question; repeat offenders will get an F for the course and will be subject to college disciplinary action.
Disabled Student Program & Services (DSP&S) are provided for any enrolled student who has a verified disability that creates an educational limitation that prevents the student from fully benefiting from classes without additional support services or instruction. Please let the instructor know if you require any support services or would like more information about DSP&S.
The syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class.