Washington and Lee University, Winter 2002

Philosophy 101: Problems of Philosophy

MWF, B hour (Newcomb 10B)

Ben Eggleston—http://home.wlu.edu/~EgglestonB

office hours: M&F, 2–4, and T&Th, 9–11 (Newcomb 25)


Ethics of Life and Death


I.            Description


This course provides an introduction to those problems of philosophy that are problems of moral philosophy, or ethics. We will begin with a brief introduction to some of the key concepts of moral philosophy; then we will examine a series of issues relating to life and death that raise profound moral questions: issues having to do with euthanasia, suicide, revolution and terrorism, abortion, world hunger, animal rights, and the environment. Throughout, we will seek not so much to form judgments about specific moral issues—most of us do that on our own anyway, albeit with varying degrees of certitude—but to improve our thinking about the considerations that may count as reasons for, as well as possible objections to, moral judgments.


II.            Requirements


Your active involvement in this course is crucial to the achievement of the objective just specified. So, 15 percent of your final grade will be based on your attendance and your intelligent and helpful participation in class discussions (which will based on the assigned reading). Another 60 percent of your grade will be based on three papers whose due dates and lengths are given below, in the schedule. The final 25 percent of your grade will be based on a mid-term exam and a cumulative final exam. The two exams will mainly test your knowledge of what you’ve read, while the three papers will manifest your knowledge of how to articulate, and to present arguments for, your own views. Further information about these assignments will be provided as needed, as well as upon request.


III.       Books


All of the required reading is contained in the following book:


Tom Regan (ed.), Matters of Life and Death: New Introductory Essays in Moral Philosophy (McGraw-Hill, 1993).


IV.            Schedule


Following is a list of topics and reading assignments, along with in-class events such as activities and tests.




topics and reading assignments (to be done prior to class, of course)

activities, tests, due dates for papers, etc.










M, 1/7


introductory discussion


W, 1/9

·       § 1: “Killing and Letting Die” (pp. 1–2)

·       part I: “Meta-Ethics” (pp. 3–12)



F, 1/11

·       part II: “Normative Ethics” (pp. 12–29)





M, 1/14


·       part I: “Introduction” (pp. 30–34)

·       part II: “An Historical Perspective” (pp. 34–38)



W, 1/16

·       part III: “Recent Developments” (pp. 39–44)

·       part IV: “Arguments Supporting the Morality of Active Euthanasia” (pp. 44–50)




F, 1/18

·       part IV, continued

·       part V: “Arguments Opposing the Morality of Active Euthanasia” (pp. 50–55)



M, 1/21

·       part VI: “The Question of Legalization” (pp. 56–65)

·       part VII: “Conclusion” (pp. 65–66)




W, 1/23


·       introductory section (pp. 69–71)

·       part I: “The Definition of Suicide” (pp. 71–83)



F, 1/25

·       part II: “Principles Relevant to the Morality of Suicide” (pp. 83–86)

·       part III: “Two Opposed Philosophies of Suicide” (pp. 86–95)



M, 1/28

·       part III, continued

·       part IV: “Suicide Intervention” (pp. 95–104)

in-class readings of first paper (bring two copies)


W, 1/30

·       part V: “Assisted Suicide” (pp. 104–111)




F, 2/1

·       part V, continued

·       part VI: “Conclusion” (pp. 111–113)

paper no. 1 due (5 pages)




M, 2/4

War, Revolution, and Terrorism

·       introductory paragraphs (p. 121)

·       part I: “Moral Theory and Violence” (pp. 121–131)



W, 2/6

·       part II: “Morality and Violence” (pp. 131–143)



F, 2/8

·       part III: “Political Violence: War, Revolution, Terrorism” (pp. 143–157)



M, 2/11

[ none ]

catch up and review


W, 2/13

[ none ]

mid-term test



F, 2/15

Social Cooperation

[ none ]


prisoner’s dilemma game


M, 2/18

[ none ]

no class (Washington break)


W, 2/20

[ none ]

no class (Washington break)


F, 2/22

[ none]

no class (Washington break)


M, 2/25

·       part III, continued

·       part IV: “Concluding Reflection on the “ ‘Secular Problem of Evil’ ” (pp. 157–158)




W, 2/27


·       introductory section (pp. 195–197)

·       part I: “The Status of the Fetus” (pp. 197–213)



F, 3/1

·       part I, continued



M, 3/4

·       part II: “The Problem of the Conflict of Claims” (pp. 213–226)



W, 3/6

·       part II, continued

·       part III: “Postcript” (pp. 226–230)

paper no. 2 due (6 pages)



F, 3/8

World Hunger

·       introductory section (pp. 235–236)

·       part I: “Some Criteria for Moral Argument” (pp. 237–240)

·       part II: “The Facts of Hunger and Famine” (pp. 240–247)



M, 3/11

·       part III: “Utilitarian Approaches to Hunger and Famine” (pp. 248–258)



W, 3/13

·       part IV: “Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems” (pp. 258–267)



F, 3/15

·       part V: “Utilitarians, Kantians, and Respect for Life” (pp. 267–269)

·       part VI: “Nearby Hunger and Poverty” (pp. 270–272)

·       part VII: “Practical Suggestions” (pp. 272–273)





M, 3/18

Animals and the Value of Life

·       introductory section (pp. 280)

·       part I: “Introduction” (pp. 280–284)

·       part II: “Is Human Life of Unique Value?” (pp. 284–295)



W, 3/20

·       part II, continued

·       part III: “The Value of a Person’s Life” (pp. 295–304)



F, 3/22

·       part III, continued

·       part IV: “Animal Life” (pp. 304–312)



M, 3/25

·       part IV, continued

·       part V: “Conclusions” (pp. 312–316)




W, 3/27

Environmental Ethics

·       part I: “The Need for an Environmental Ethic” (pp. 322–339)



F, 3/29

·       part II: “Two Judeo-Christian Responses to the Environmental Crisis” (pp. 339–347)



M, 4/1

·       part III: “The Extensionist Approach to Environmental Ethics” (pp. 347–358)

paper no. 3 due (7 pages)


W, 4/3


·       part IV: “The Ecocentric Approach to Environmental Ethics” (pp. 358–371)



F, 4/5

·       part V: “Summary and Conclusion” (pp. 371–376)





[ take exam by 4/12 ]


revised: 1/7/02