Contemporary Issues Ethical Issues (rs 361) online. Spring 2014 Prof. Juan Herrero

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Contemporary Issues Ethical Issues (RS 361) ONLINE. SPRING 2014

Prof. Juan Herrero;

E-mail: and

Office hours: For communication in real time, please log in to MSN Messenger ( M, TH 2-3 via MSN. I can also be contacted anytime via e-mail, and you will receive my reply within 24 hours (sometimes within minutes).
Required books:

Daws, Gavan. Holy Man. Univ. of Hawaii Press

McKinnon, K. Only Words. Harvard U. Press.

Linzey, Andrew. Creatures of the Same God: Explorations in Animal Theology. Lantern.

* * * All other assigned readings are provided for you in the corresponding weekly modules on Moodle.
Requirements: Lecture-based quizzes – usually one per week; however, some weeks you will have two or more quizzes, some covering lectures, others covering readings or documentaries. The number of points for each quiz varies depending on the specific quiz and topic, how much material it covers, etc. (check Moodle for additional information); two comprehension/critical papers; three midterms, a forum participation assignment, and one final project.
Quizzes and midterms are multiple-choice tests. When the time window opens for you to write a paper, you will receive detailed instructions through Moodle by clicking on the specific link for that paper. As far as the Forum participation is concerned, you will be required to make a minimum of three contributions to at least two of the topic forums. However, my expectation is that you will post more than three comments throughout the semester. The comments that you post should reflect your educated opinion concerning the topic you are writing about, not a prejudiced, uninformed opinion, or gut feeling about the matter. Your posts may consist of your response to another student’s post, to a comment you posted previously, or it may be your initial comment on a topic. Towards the end of the semester, you will select, copy, and paste, three of your posts -the ones that you think are more substantial and better done- and turn them in the form of a single paper (always through Moodle). Your posts should be spread out throughout the semester. As for as the final project, you will start reading for it from mid-semester on (more information about it in Moodle).
Course description. In this class, we analyze a number of controversial moral issues with an impact on public policy and personal and social behavior. We look at those issues from a general, philosophical viewpoint, while paying special attention to a variety of religious perspectives on them.

Communicating via e-mail: When communicating with me via e-mail please do so to or Both addresses are linked.

MSN messenger. If you would like to communicate with me via messenger in real time, please, open an MSN or Hotmail account, download MSN messenger, and add to your MSN messenger account. You can also make an appointment with me via Skype.
Course objectives. In this class, you will learn the fundamental principles and concepts of ethical theory, as well as the patterns of ethical argumentation. You will also learn about the interrelatedness of social, economic, philosophical, gender, religious and ethical issues. The goal of this class is twofold. You will learn how to argue an ethical issue generally speaking, and you will also become aware of what the facts and arguments are surrounding the specific controversies we will be visiting in this class.
Grading criteria. Most tests are multiple choice. Thus, grading for those tests is strictly “objective” and based on the answers you give. However, for your writing assignments, which include papers, final project, and forum participation, grading is based on my valuation not only of content but also structure, word choice, fluidity, completion, and general understanding of the issues at hand. No partial grade is assigned for each of these aspects. Rather, the grade is a global grade that reflects the overall quality of the essay by taking all of those aspects into consideration, and in relations to the other essays in your section.
Grade Distribution Scale.
90%-100%: A; 87-89%.99:% A-; 83%-86.99%: B+; 80%-82.99%: B;

77%-79.99%: B-; 70%-76.99%: C+; 65%-69.99%: C; 60%-64.99%: C-

55%-59.99%: D; 0-54%.99%: F

Percentage of the grade corresponding to quizzes, midterms, papers, final project and forums:

Quizzes: 60.81%; Midterms: 22.43%; Papers: 9.10%; Final Project: 5.46%

Forum assignment: 2.18%

The specific point value of each quiz, writing assignment, etc. is given next to the name of the assignment or test on your Moodle website..

REMEMBER: Your worst enemy when taking an online class is the feeling that you will do the work “later.” DO NOT ALLOW WORK TO ACCUMULATE FROM ONE WEEK TO THE NEXT. Once you allow that to happen on a regular basis, you will be on your sure way to failing this class. The large amount of freedom, flexibility, and time you gain with an online class needs to be compensated with an equal amount of personal responsibility.


Week 1 (Jan. 20-24)

General introduction. Morality and the Law. Natural Law. Virtue and virtue ethics. Ancient Greek and Judeo Christian views of virtue. Confucius, Mencius, Aristotle.

Value systems. Ethics and Aesthetics. Ancient Greek and Judeo-Christian perspectives.

Reading: Resistance to Civil Government; Antigone; UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Week 2 (Jan. 27-31)

Henry David Thoreau on morality and the law. Moral obligation. Moral agency. Human nature, Natural Law and moral obligation.

Reading: Resistance to Civil Government. Martin Luther King “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”


Week 3 ( Feb. 3-7). Be on the alert for quiz # 1. Covers contents of weeks 1 and 2 Check specific dates and times on Moodle.

Ethics, religion, and the economy. Catholic and Protestant theologies.

Reading: Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Part I. “Catholic asceticism” (“The Imitation of Christ”).
Week 4 (Feb. 10-14). Be on the alert for quiz # 2. It covers the lecture contents of week 3.

Ethics, religion, and the economy.

Reading: Max Weber, Part I.


Week 5 (Feb. 17-21). Be on the alert for quiz #3 . It covers the lectures of week 4 and the readings for weeks 3 and 4. Check Moodle for specific dates and times. FIRST PAPER, check Moodle for deadline. MIDTERM # 1: Check for specific dates and times on Moodle. It covers all contents and readings of weeks 1-4.

Sexual ethics (1): Modernity and Postmodernity,

Reading: Only Words (skip the chapter on sexual racism, read the rest of the book).
Week 6 (Feb. 24-28) .

Sexual Ethics: (2) Radical Feminism and pornography.

Required reading: Finish reading Only Words; Recommended: “Feminists and Philosophy”; “It Happened in Milwaukee”; “Pornography at CSUN”; “Women against Sex”.

Week 7 (March 3-7).

Sexual ethics: Homosexuality.

Reading/Assignment: “Kinsey Data”; “Homosexuality in Other Cultures”; “Bisexuality in the Ancient World”; “Men and Boys”; “University of Chicago Study” (1 and 2). Watch documentary “Changing Our Minds: The Life and Work of Dr. Evelyn Hooker” (link to documentary provided online).


Week 8 (March 10-14). SECOND PAPER Check Moodle for deadline.

The Just War Tradition and Military ethics. The military draft (conscription).

Reading:; Draft Resistance”; “Fighting the Draft”; “On Not Prosecuting Civil Disobedience”; “On the Draft”; “The Draft and Its Opposition”; “The Ultra Resistance”; “Military Draft in Germany.” Recommended: The Gates Commission. The Conscription Tax”
Week 9 (March 17-21)

The Just War Tradition. Conscientious objection

Reading: “Morality and War”; “Just War Theory”; “What is a Just War?”; “A Call to Holy War”; “Just War (Timmons).”

Continue reading Holy Man.


Week 10 (March 24-28). MIDTERM 2. Covers weeks 5, 6 and 7, 8, and 9, lectures and readings. Check Moodle for specific dates and times

Death Penalty and Affirmative Action

Reading (many of the readings for this week consist of very short articles): “Death Penalty 2009”; “Death Penalty3”; “Capital Punishment”; “Capital Punishment in America”; “Death Penalty Background”; “Capital Punishment in China”; “More on Capital Punishment”; “Virginian Nears Execution Despite Doubt”; “Death Penalty, Timmons”; “Affirming Affirmative Action”; “Good Bye to Affirmative Action.”

Begin reading Daws (Holy Man

Week 11 (March 31-April 4)

Animal Rights.

Reading: Linzey, chapters -4; “Descartes: Animals Are Machines.”

Continue reading Holy Man.

Week 12 (April 7-11). SPRING BREAK

Week 13 (April 14-18)

Animal rights: Religious views.

Reading: Linzey, Chapters 6 and 7; “Jainism: Respect for Life”; “Animals and the Bible”; “Albert Schweitzer: Animals and Religion.”
Week 14 (April 21-25).

Animal Experimentation.

Reading: “Animals and Us”; “Animal Liberation at Thirty”; “Animal Liberation 1973”; “Animal Experimentation Database.” Watch documentary “Lethal Medicine” (link to documentary provided online).

Finish Reading Holy Man.


Week 15 (April 28-May 2) MIDTERM 3: Blocks 5 and 6. SUBMIT FORUM PARTICIPATION.

Hero Ethics.

Reading: Review Holy Man.

Preparation of Final Project on Damien of Molokai. Check Moodle for guidelines and instructions.

Week 16 (May 6-9)

Quiz 10. Covers Holy Man and week 10 lecture.

Presentation of final projects.

RS Student Learning Outcomes

1) Students will be able to articulate, orally and in writing, the diversity and distinctiveness of the moral values implicit in and the ethical arguments currently employed within various religious and secular traditions.

2) Students will demonstrate an understanding of the influence of diverse religious and secular traditions on moral attitudes and behaviors.

3) Students will be able to develop oral and written proposals for resolving current moral dilemmas in society.

4) Students will be able to recognize and critically evaluate their own and others’ assumptions and biases as they play a role in - - and sometimes distort - - their thinking.

5) Students will demonstrate oral communication skills and mindful listening through conversations in the classroom about the moral values and forms of ethical thinking of fellow students.

This course is writing intensive—WI.


Goal: Students will develop their abilities to express themselves and the knowledge they have obtained through practicing various forms of writing within different disciplinary contexts. Writing intensive courses will build upon the skills gained in the Analytical Reading and Expository Writing section of Basic Skills. In each WI course students will be required to complete writing assignments totaling a minimum of 2500 words.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students will:

1. Develop and clearly define their ideas through writing;

2. Ethically integrate sources of various kinds into their writing;

3. Compose texts through drafting, revising, and completing a finished product;

4. Express themselves through their writing by posing questions, making original claims, and coherently structuring complex ideas;

5. Revise their writing for greater cogency and clarity;

6. Utilize adopted communication modes and documentation styles of specific disciplines (MLA, APA, Chicago, CBE, etc) where appropriate
GE Student Learning Objectives for this class:
Goal: Students will understand the rich history and diversity of human knowledge, discourse and achievements of their own and other cultures as they are expressed in the arts, literatures, religions, and philosophy.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students will:

1. Explain and reflect critically upon the human search for meaning, values, discourse and expression in one or more eras/stylistic periods or cultures;

2. Analyze, interpret, and reflect critically upon ideas of value, meaning, discourse and expression from a variety of perspectives from the arts and/or humanities;

3. Produce work/works of art that communicate to a diverse audience through a demonstrated understanding and fluency of expressive forms;

4. Demonstrate ability to engage and reflect upon their intellectual and creative development within the arts and humanities;

5. Use appropriate critical vocabulary to describe and analyze works of artistic expression, literature, philosophy, or religion and a comprehension of the historical context within which a body of work was created or a tradition emerged;

6. Describe and explain the historical and/or cultural context within which a body of work was created or a tradition emerged.

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