Michael J. Zimmerman:

Standard catalog description
Philosophical readings and discussion of such current topics as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, censorship, sexual morality, affirmative action and preferential hiring, environmental ethics, population control, and the morality of war.

Standard student learning outcomes
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of at least two significant philosophical, religious, and/or ethical theories or traditions by describing and analyzing them;
  2. demonstrate an ability to compare and contrast the assumptions, arguments, modes of  thought, attendant beliefs or practices of two or more theories or traditions or of diverse voices among those who accept a given theory or tradition;
  3. demonstrate the ability to apply abstract ideas to specific instances; and
  4. evaluate the credibility of sources of information.

Discussion boards
There are, or will be, several discussion boards, all accessible by way of the “Discussions” option on the course menu : (1) a board on Course Policy; (2) a board on Course Content; and (3) boards on Discussion Questions. If you have a question about course policy that you would like to ask me and which you are willing to share with others (something that might well be helpful to them), please use the first board for this purpose. If you have a question about course content that you would like to ask me and which you are willing to share with others (again, something that might well be helpful to them), please use the second board for this purpose. I will try to answer all such questions in as timely a manner as possible. The purpose of the third set of boards is quite different. On Thursday of the first week of each module, a new discussion board will appear (at 12:30 am) on which I will pose a question for discussion, one that will be relevant to some issue that is addressed in that module. You are invited to post responses to that question within 47 hours of my having posted the question (the deadline being 11:30 pm on Friday). I will then (on either Saturday or Sunday) post a response to my own question, one that may well take into account responses that you have made. You should not post responses after the 47-hour period has elapsed; I will not be taking them into consideration. For further information, see the section in this syllabus on Extra Credit.

Apert from the introductory module, every module contains a commentary written by me, and all but one of these modules also include assigned texts. These texts present particular moral problems, and the commentaries, like an instructor’s lectures, are designed to help you understand the texts and the issues that they concern. You may read the texts and commentaries at your leisure, but you should read them before you complete that module’s quiz. You will need to read the relevant commentary and texts thoroughly and carefully for each module. The first text is an introduction to an anthology, and all the other texts have been drawn from that same anthology. The texts vary in quality, but they will all be useful to you in helping you come to grips with the issues that we will be addressing. Some of the texts contain typos, but none of these typos should prevent you from understanding the relevant passages.

Quizzes and practice questions: 
There will be seven quizzes. The first quiz will cover the contents of this syllabus. The remaining quizzes (one quiz for each of the six remaining modules of the course) will cover the material found in the relevant texts and commentaries. You must take all seven quizzes to pass the course. The syllabus quiz will contain 10 questions, worth 1 point each. The remaining quizzes will each contain 40 questions, also worth 1 point each.

Practice questions for each of the quizzes (except the syllabus quiz) are available in the modules. They are in pdf format and are not interactive. Each set of practice questions contains 15 questions. The practice questions are intended to give you an idea of the kinds of questions you can expect to see on the quizzes themselves. You should read the commentaries and texts before you attempt to answer the practice questions. Answer keys to the practice questions will be made available in the final week of each of Modules 1-6.

As to the quizzes themselves: once they have been made available in the modules (according to the schedule given below) you may enter and exit them as often as you wish. However, please note that, once a quiz has been submitted, it cannot be reopened or retaken. So be very careful not to submit a quiz if you intend to go back to it later. When you take a quiz, your answers will be saved automatically. If you want to change an answer that has been saved, you may do so. If you want to quit a quiz without submitting your answers, simply navigate away from the page. (Again, do not click on the “Submit Quiz” button unless and until you are ready to submit your answers.) When you want to return to a quiz, click on the relevant link in the relevant module, and you will then be able to resume the quiz; any answers that were saved earlier will re-appear. (Again, if you want to change an answer that has been saved, you may do so.) When you are ready to submit your answers, click on the “Submit Quiz” button. Once you have done that, you cannot return to the quiz later.

The quizzes will be made available according to the schedule given at the end of this syllabus. On the dates on which they are made available, you may take the quizzes at any time between 12:30 am of the first day and 4:00 pm of the last day. Note that the quizzes will not be generally available outside of the relevant time-frame. (The reason for this is to make sure that you pace yourself properly throughout the course.) You should therefore make sure that you do not put off taking the quizzes in such a way that you find you have run out of time. (In this regard, please note that Canvas often gets very busy, and there can sometimes be a considerable delay before answers are recorded.)  As indicated in the schedule, you will have plenty of time to take the quizzes.

To access a quiz, simply go to the relevant module and click on it. Quizzes have no time limit (within the times at which they are available) and can be saved and reopened multiple times. Once again, however, once a quiz has been submitted, it cannot be reopened or retaken.

You may consult the texts and commentaries while taking a quiz. Indeed, you are encouraged to do so.

To submit your answers to a quiz, click on the “Submit Quiz” button. A page will appear, asking you to confirm that you want to submit your answers, in which case you should click on the “OK” button; if you do not want to submit your answers, click on the “Cancel” button. If you do not see a confirmation page when attempting to submit your answers, this may indicate a technical problem and you should call 6-TECH (256-8324) immediately.

Extra credit
If you contribute either to the Discussion Questions discussion boards (within the 47-hour period mentioned above) or to the Course Content discussion board (or both), you might earn some extra credit. Whether you do earn extra credit will depend on the quality of your contribution, as judged by me. The quantity of your contributions will have no bearing on the matter, so please don’t post comments just for the sake of posting comments. There is no set formula that I will be using when judging the quality of posts. What I’m looking (hoping) for is thoughtful comments that show that you are truly engaged with the course material.

If you show steady improvement throughout the course in the scores that you earn on the quizzes, you will earn some extra credit. Once again, there is no set formula that I will be using to determine just how much extra credit you will receive if you meet this condition.

Evaluation and grading 
As noted above, the syllabus quiz is worth a maximum of 10 points and each of the remaining six quizzes is worth a maximum of 40 points. You may thus earn a maximum of 250 points in the course (unless you earn some points as extra credit).

The following table provides the grading scale for the course. This table is the only thing that will be used to determine your final grade in the course, except that (a) as also noted above, you must take all seven quizzes to pass the course, and (b) you must abide by the course policies given below.

A+ 241-250 A 233-240 A- 225-232
B+ 216-224 B 208-215 B- 200-207
C+ 191-199 C 183-190 C- 175-182
D+ 166-174 D 158-165 D- 150-157
F 0-149

All messages posted in the Announcements area of Canvas apply to everyone in the course. You are responsible for knowing any and all information posted in this area. For example, if some scheduling change is necessary, and the due date for an assignment changes, the change will be explained in an announcement.

You are also responsible for knowing any information communicated to you via UNCG email. If you cannot receive your UNCG email for any reason, you must contact 6-TECH.

Communication with the instructor: 
Questions about course content, policies, and any other course-related matters are welcome and may either be posted on the relevant discussion boards or sent to me by email. I will respond as soon as possible to all such inquiries. Note, however, that any inquiry concerning the questions on the quizzes will be answered only after the relevant assignment has been completed by all students.

Make-ups will be allowed upon request, but only under very restrictive conditions, conditions far less generous than those that apply to taking an assignment while it is generally available. (In particular, a strict time-limit will be imposed on all make-ups.) Thus it will certainly not be to your advantage to take a make-up rather than to take a quiz during the time when it is generally available, and you are therefore strongly advised to do all that you can to make sure that you do complete assignments while they are generally available and to request a make-up only as a last resort.

Technical problems: 
If you encounter any technical problems you should call 6-TECH immediately. It is your responsibility to resolve any technical problems with the submission of an assignment before the relevant due date. Technical problems will not be accepted as an excuse for failing to submit work on time. Please do not contact me concerning technical problems! I do not have the necessary expertise to be of any assistance in regard to any such problems.

Academic honesty: 
You are expected to adhere to all the University’s policies and procedures regarding academic honesty (see All submitted assignments should reflect your own work, and no one else’s. Working on a quiz with another student or searching the internet for answers (which would be futile, anyway) constitutes cheating.

Students with disabilities: 
If you have a documented learning-related disability for which you would like some form of academic accommodation, please contact UNCG’s disability office within the first week of the course. Only students who have been approved by the UNCG disability office will be allowed an accommodation for their learning-related disability.


Part I: Preliminary Matters 

Weeks 1 – 2 (Monday 8/17 – Friday 8/28)

  • Video introduction to the course
  • Written introduction to the course
  • Syllabus quiz
    Available: Monday 8/17 Wednesday 8/26
    Maximum points: 10

Module 1 

  • Video introduction to Module 1
  • Written commentary:
    1.    Philosophical argumentation
    Text:     Boonin & Oddie
    2.    Moral obligation, right, and wrong 
  • Discussion Question 1
    Open for discussion: Thursday 8/20 – Friday 8/21
  • Quiz 1
    Available: Monday 8/24 Friday 8/28
    Maximum points: 40

Module 2

Weeks 3 – 4 (Monday 8/31 – Friday 9/11) 

  • Video introduction to Module 2
  • Written commentary:
    3.    Is ethics objective or subjective?
    4.    God and morality
  • Discussion Question 2
    Open for discussion: Thursday 9/3 – Friday 9/4
  • Quiz 2
    Available: Monday 9/7 Friday 9/11
    Maximum points: 40

Part II: Sex 

Module 3 

Weeks 5 – 7 (Monday 9/14 – Friday 10/2) 

  • Video introduction to Module 3
  • Written commentary:
    5.   Homosexuality
    Texts:     Levin, Murphy, Jordan, Boonin, Sullivan
    6.   Prostitution
    Texts:     Ericsson, Pateman
    7.   Surrogate mothering
    Texts:     Anderson, Arneson, Wertheimer
  • Discussion Question 3
    Open for discussion: Thursday 9/17 – Friday 9/18
  • Quiz 3
    Available: Monday 9/28 Friday 10/2
    Maximum points: 40

Part III: Sex and death 

Module 4 

Weeks 8 – 9 (Monday 10/5 – Friday 10/23) 

  • Video introduction to Module 4
  • Written commentary:
    8.    Abortion
    Texts:     Marquis, Paske, Norcross, Tooley, Stevens, Thomson, Brody, Beckwith
  • Discussion Question 4
    Open for discussion: Thursday 10/8 – Friday 10/9
  • Quiz 4
    Available: Monday 10/19 Friday 10/23
    Maximum points: 40 

Part IV: Death

Module 5 

Weeks 10 – 11 (Monday 10/26 – Friday 11/6) 

  • Video introduction to Module 5
  • Written commentary:
    9.    War
    Texts:     Fullinwider, Alexander
    10.   Capital punishment
    Texts:     Reiman, Nathanson, van den Haag
  • Discussion Question 5
    Open for discussion: Thursday 10/29 – Friday 10/30
  • Quiz 5
    Available: Monday 11/2 Friday 11/6
    Maximum points: 40

Module 6

Weeks 12 – 14 (Monday 11/9 – Tuesday 12/1)

  • Video introduction to Module 6
  • Written commentary:
    11.   Famine relief
    Texts:     Singer, Arthur, Slote
    12.   The treatment of animals
    Texts:     Regan, Frey 1, Frey 2, White
    13.   Euthanasia
    Texts:     Rachels, Nesbitt, Perrett
  • Discussion Question 6
    Open for discussion: Thursday 11/12 – Friday 11/13
  • Quiz 6
    Available: Monday 11/23 Tuesday 12/1
    Maximum points: 40

Note: Module 4 contains an “extra” week in order to accommodate Spring Break, and Module 6 ends on Tuesday, December 1, in order to accommodate Thanksgiving.

PHI 121