Phil 1200: Contemporary Social Problems

Fall 2018

Course Syllabus

Schedule (subject to change!)

Below is a tentative schedule of what topics we will cover, and what reading(s) you should complete BEFORE each class meeting.

M, Aug 27

Topic: About this course—An Intro to Contemporary Social Problems
No reading assignment

W, Aug 29

Teaching Philosophy and A Brief Intro to Philosophy and its Topics
Reread course syllabus

F, Aug 31

A Brief Intro to the Methods of Philosophy
Video (1.5 hours long)- “History of the World

M, Sep 3

Labor Day- No Class!

W, Sep 5

Finish Intro to Philosophy Topics and Methods
Reading: none .

F, Sep 7

Politics, Irrationality, and Critical Thinking
Reading: Huemer, “Why People are Irrational about Politics.” P. 1-7
Short Video:

M, Sep 10

Politics and Irrationality Continued
Reading: Huemer, “Why People are Irrational about Politics.” P. 7-16
Video: Huemer and Examples of Irrationality
Suggested film: "Idiocracy" 

W, Sep 12

Finding Truth in the Age of Fake News: Critical Thinking and Logic
Reading: Haskins “Critical Thinking

F, Sep 14

Logic and Arguments Continued
Reading: Layman, “Logic, Ch.1
Suggested  humorous reading: Dave Barry “How to Win an Argument

M, Sep 17

Finish Logic and Argument Reconstruction
Reread: Layman, “Logic, Ch.1

W, Sep 19 

Cultural Relativism
Reading: Rachels on Cultural Relativism
Suggested film: "Avatar"

F, Sep 21

Finish Cultural Relativism and Objections
Reread: Rachels on Cultural Relativism
Suggested film: "Enemy Mine"

M, Sep 24

Morality and Religion- Is God the Source of Moral Truth?
Reading: Shafer-Landau- "Does Ethical Objectivity Require God?" 
Video (first 35min): William Lane Craig vs Louise Antony Debate

W, Sep 26

Morality and Religion- continued
Reread: Shafer-Landau- "Does Ethical Objectivity Require God?" 
Rewatch Video (first 35min): William Lane Craig vs Louise Antony Debate

F, Sep 28

Reading: J.S. Mill- Utilitarianism (excerpt)
Video: “The Trolley Problem” 
Suggested filmCabin in the Woods or Watchmen   

M, Oct  1

Objections to Utilitarianism
Reading: Rachels, “The Debate over Utilitarianism 
Suggested film: Sophie’s Choice or The Village

W, Oct 3

Objections to Utilitarianism (continued)
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Reread: Rachels, “The Debate over Utilitarianism”
Suggested film: Ender’s Game 

F, Oct 5

Finish Utilitarianism & Objections
Reread Rachels, "The Debate over Utilitarianims"
Video: Sam Harris - What can science tell us about morality?

M, Oct 8

Deontology: Duty and Rights
Reading: Onora O'Neill “A Simplified Account of Kant's Ethics

W, Oct 10

Deontology- continued
Reading: This is Philosophy, Deontology section (Pages 42-52 only)

F, Oct 12


M, Oct 15

Applied Topics
Gun Control- For Gun Control
Reading: Dixon, “Why We Should Ban Handguns...”

W, Oct 17

Gun Control- Against Gun Control
Reading: Huemer, “Is There a Right to Own a Gun?”, §1-4
Look at: Recent Statisitic-Wikipedia Gun Violence in U.S.

F, Oct 19

Gun Control- continued
Reading: Huemer, “Is There a Right to Own a Gun?”, §5-7

M, Oct 22

Important in-class day- Exams returned
No reading assigned

W, Oct 24 

Animal Ethics and Vegetarianism
Reading: Lowe: “Common Arguments for the Moral Acceptability of Eating Meat

F,  Oct 26

Animal Ethics and Vegetarianism continued
Reading: Norcross “Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases

M, Oct 29

Reading: Don Marquis, “Why Abortion Is Immoral.”

W, Oct 31 

Abortion continued
Reading: Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion

F, Nov 2

Abortion- Discussion day
Reading: Is Abortion Candy?
****Homework Assigned****

M, Nov 5

Poverty and World Hunger
Reading: Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality
Video: Sobering Stats on Poverty

W, Nov 7

Poverty and World Hunger- Singer Continued
Re-read: Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
Foreign Aid Infographic

F, Nov 9

Poverty and World hunger- Responses to Singer
Required Video (short):Key and Peele “Save a Child"
Reading: REREAD Singer article

M, Nov 12

Poverty and World hunger- Responses to Singer
REREAD Singer article
Article: Billionaires Could End World Poverty Easily

W, Nov 14

Puzzle Day!
Reading: None

F, Nov 16

Class and Office Hours Cancelled

M, Nov 19

Fall Break- no class

W, Nov 21

Fall Break- no class

F, Nov 23

Fall Break- no class

M, Nov 26

Income Inequality, Distributive Justice, The Original Position and the Veil of Ignorance
Reading: Quick Overview of Rawls and Nozick on Distributive Justice
Rawls- A Theory of Justice (excerpt)

W, Nov 28

Rawls and Egalitarianism continued
Ben Hale- The Veil of Opulence 
Reread: Rawls- A Theory of Justice (excerpt)
Short video on Rawls
Quick look: current distribution of wealth

F, Nov 30

Finish Rawls
Short video on Justice

M,  Dec 3

Libertarianism- Distributive Justice revisited
Nozick-Anarchy, State, and Utopia (excerpt)

W, Dec 5

Libertarianism continued
Article: The US is an Oligarchy
Suggested short article: Tax Havens for Big Companies

F, Dec 7

Finish Nozick and Objections

M, Dec 10

Civil Disobedience- When government fails…
Plato, “Crito
Short Wikipedia article on Crito

W, Dec 12

Civil Disobedience continued
MLK ,“Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Optional: United Nations: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Final Exam       on official day scheduled by Registrar’s office (Posted in your mycuinfo)




Additional Resources for Students

Guidelines on writing a philosophy paper (J. Pryor)
Writing Philosophy Essays (M. Tooley)
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Oh the power of learning philosophy...

7/3/19: I am thrilled to have accepted a position as an Instructor at the University of Colorado at Denver! I was extremely impressed by the students and community when last I was there, and am excited to be returning to now teach all the core classes for the UCD Philosophy of Science Minor!

5/6/16: I'm honored to be the first person to receive both the CU Boulder Philosophy Department Morriston Teaching Award (2016) and the University of Colorado-Boulder Graduate Teaching Excellence Award (2014-2015)! My thanks go out to the many great teachers and students with whom I've been lucky enough to learn!

Office Hours: By appointment
Location: Remote via Zoom

Please feel free to drop by with any questions, or simply to chat about philosophy, life, the universe and everything...

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