Philosophy 300 --  History of Ethics
Fall 2008   T & Th, Noon to 1:15 pm in BR 357
Theodore Gracyk

Office: Bridges 359B       Phone: (218) 477-4089      
Office Hours: MTW, 9:00-11:45 a.m. and Tuesday 2-3 pm,  and by appointment

Description: An examination of selected major issues and figures in the history of ethics.   3 Credits -- Prerequisite of Phil 101 or 105 or 311

Course Goals: 

  1. Students shall demonstrate an understanding of significant texts in the development of philosophical ethics in Western culture.

  2. Students shall discuss and write in an informed manner about ethics.


Required Purchases:
  • Course Pack of Readings, only available from the MSUM bookstore. 
  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (Hackett Publishing)

Grading Policies:  

You will be graded on four things:

  • Regular in-class informal writing.

  • Two formal essays of approximately 4 pages each (NOT research papers)

  • A formal essay of approximately 8 pages (research paper with bibliography)

  • The final exam (in class informal writing)

Each of these four elements of the course will be weighted equally (20% of course grade) except for the 8-page paper, which is double weighted (40% of course grade)

Late work that does not receive prior authorization to be late cannot receive a grade above C+. The best way to receive prior authorization by speaking to me or by telephoning me and leaving a message on my voice mail. Email is unreliable because I may not have time to see it before the due date for the work.

This is a Writing Intensive Course. The quality of your formal writing will affect your course grade.

The course combines informal writing (short pieces of writing produced during class sessions), integrative formal writing in which you will explain, integrate, and evaluate material covered in the assigned readings (three essays), and one less formal essay (a final exam that requires you to apply what they’ve learned to a case study not previously covered in class). 

Taken together, the formal, integrative writing must be at least a minimum of 16 pages (4800 words).

Robert Hughes, one of the most articulate and important art critics of recent years, has said this about the process of writing: “My main impulse for writing a book was to force myself to find out about things I didn't know. … Otherwise, why do it at all?” This point encapsulates my goals for having you write. Writing is a mode of exploration. There is no reason to write except to find out things you did not already know, including things about yourself, such as your own position on controversial topics.

Writing Intensive Outcomes

  • You will use a coherent writing process including invention, organization, drafting, revising, and editing to form an effective final written product. To do this, the course will combine informal and formal writing. Informal writing will be used to formulate ideas that will be important in formal writing. The first paper will require submitting a draft.
  • You will consult effectively and appropriately with others to produce quality written products. To do this, the first paper will require submitting a draft.
  • You will read, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and integrate appropriately and ethically both information and ideas from diverse sources or points of view in their writing. To do this, you will write essays, quizzes, and a final exam. Each will require you to integrate material from multiple sources (e.g., different books plus material presented in class).
  • You will create logical, engaging, effective written products appropriate for specific audiences and purposes. Students will be provided with a rubric that clarifies this expectation.
  • You will locate, use, and cite appropriately primary and secondary source materials from both print and electronic resources.
  • You will use correct grammar and mechanics in writing. Essays will not be graded unless they satisfy reasonably high standards, spelled out in the assignments.

All versions of all the formal writing must be typed and double-spaced. Margins of an inch on the top and bottom and on the left and right sides of the page are standard. (Margins of an inch and a quarter on the sides are acceptable.) Twelve point fonts are also standard. Use a standard font (one that gets you at least 300 words in a full page of text). Times New Roman is always acceptable.

You should proofread your papers. For the final versions of assigned papers, I will accept no more than a total sum of three grammatical errors, typos and spelling errors per page. If you exceed this number, I will return the paper to you, and it must be handed in, “cleaned up,” at the next class meeting. Such papers will count as one day late.

If I return a paper to you to be “cleaned up” and it is not re-submitted at the next class meeting, it will receive an additional grade reduction. A paper that is not “cleaned up” by the time of the final exam receives a grade of F.

If you are worried about your ability to write a paper without making excessive errors, you should bring a draft to the instructor during scheduled office hours. (If you cannot meet with the instructor during those hours, an appointment can be made for another time.)  OR visit the write site! Tutors are available.


Reading Assignments:

Read the assignment in advance of class on the date indicated.

Tuesday, Aug 26 -- First Class
Thursday, Aug 28 -- Aristotle
Tuesday, Sept 16 -- Locke
Tuesday, Oct. 7 -- Butler
Tuesday, Oct.  14 -- No Classes Held Today
Thursday, Oct 16 -- Hume
Tuesday, Oct. 28 -- Kant
Thursday, Nov 6 --
Meet in LIBRARY 222 (Research Methods Session)
Tuesday, Nov 18 -- Mill, Utilitarianism
Thursday, Nov 27 -- No class -- Thanksgiving
Tuesday,  Dec 9 -- Mill, On Liberty, Chapter III (Last Class Meeting)

Final exam: 3 pm on Friday, Dec. 12

The final exam will be an in-class written exam. You will have access to your books and notes.

Formal Writing Due Dates

First Formal Writing: Explaining a philosopher's position
(4 pages) -- Due Thursday, Sept. 18 (This is a draft)

Second Formal Writing : Compare and contrast two philosophers
(4 pages) -- Due October 21

Third Formal Writing: Developing an informed response
(Research paper of 8 pages) -- Due Tuesday, Dec. 16

Formatting Your Formal Writing 

All versions of all the formal writing must conform to basic format rules. 

  • They must be typed and double-spaced with a minimum length as specified in the assignment. 

  • Margins of an inch on the top and bottom and on the left and right sides of the page are standard. (Margins of an inch and a quarter on the sides are acceptable.) 

  • Twelve point fonts are standard. Times New Roman is a standard font style, as are Helvetica and Arial. A standard 12 point font will give you at least 300 words per page.

  • The essay must have a cover page. Put your name on the cover page. Do not put your name anywhere else on the essay. 

  • Page numbers must be on the pages. Do not put a page number on the cover page.

  • If you do not know how to start page numbers on the second page of a document, make your cover page a separate document so that you don't disrupt the page numbering of the remainder.

Bibliography Page

  • If you quote from any source, you must attach a bibliography of all sources. 
    To be perfectly clear: I recently FAILED a student paper because it did not put the following short phrase into quotation marks and it failed to provide a bibliographic reference: "premature death is by no means a great harm."

  • The bibliography page does not count toward your minimum page total.

  • If you incorporate ideas from any source other than class lecture or the assigned readings,  you must attach a bibliography of all sources. (Notice that this applies to ideas, not just actual words taken from a source.) This page does not count toward your minimum page total. 

Carefully proofread your papers. For the final versions of assigned papers, I will accept no more than a total sum of three grammatical errors, typos and spelling errors per page. If you exceed this number, I will return the paper to you at our next class meeting. It must then be handed in, “cleaned up,” no later than the next scheduled class meeting. Such papers will count as one day late. (Notice that if you fail to attend the class session in which I return the papers and your paper needs rewriting to meet the minimum mechanical standards, you do not receive any kind of special extension.)


Notice of disability services 

The Minnesota State University of Moorhead is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in education and employment and welcomes students with disabilities. We are prepared to to offer you a range of services to accommodate your needs.

However, students must accept responsibility for initiating the request for services. 

Students with disabilities who believe they may need an accommodation in this class are encouraged to contact Greg Toutges, Coordinator of Disability Services at 218-477-5859 (voice), 800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY), or visit CMU 222 as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.

Do not discuss your needs with me, your instructor. Talk to Greg and he will contact me.
For more information, click here


Plagiarism is passing off somebody else's writing or ideas as your own. There is nothing wrong in consulting any number of sources to help you understand what we are studying (whether an article in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy or a web site or Cliffs Notes) but it is stealing to take material without first paraphrasing it completely into your own words, or without placing it in quotation marks. 

Rule of thumb: if you take more than two consecutive words from a source, put them in quotation marks, and if the idea behind a sentence comes from an outside source, acknowledge that source! I recently FAILED a student paper because it did not put the following short phrase into quotation marks and it failed to provide a page reference: "premature death is by no means a great harm."

Any time you consult and draw on ideas from any source, you should cite your source. Taking ideas from another person and pretending that they are your own, original thoughts, is also plagiarism. The fact that your source was an assigned text for the course does not mitigate or lessen the seriousness of plagiarism.

Students sometimes claim unintentional or accidental plagiarism. It is difficult for an instructor to judge whether the plagiarism was intentional or unintentional. Basically, the latter occurs when a student reads a secondary source or takes notes, writes a paper without looking at the source or the notes, and accidentally uses phrasing and ideas from that source. Or a student may attempt to paraphrase an author's ideas, but fails to put it completely into his or her own words. (If you paraphrase and don't cite your source, that's evidence of intentional plagiarism.)

If evidence demonstrates that you have plagiarized any part of any written assignment for the course, the offense will be reported to the Vice President for Student Affairs and you will receive a failing grade for the course.

In short, if you use an outside source, simply provide footnotes or citations in parentheses where appropriate.  FOR MORE INFORMATION, CLICK HERE 


Grade of "A": An excellent essay in all respects. Clear, grammatical, well organized, and progresses logically, with all elements relevant to the topic. Exhibits both original thought and an accurate grasp of the material. Grammatical errors kept to a minimum.

Grade of "B": A good essay, but not outstanding. Overall organization is clear and coherent, although minor weaknesses may be present. Accurate presentation of material, but generally presents the minimum needed. Limited original thought. A few minor or subtle errors in punctuation and/or spelling.

Grade of "C": A satisfactory paper. Shows basic understanding, with some deficiencies. Organization not always clear and transitions abrupt or lacking. May contain irrelevant material. Weak support of ideas. Occasional grammatical mistakes, or sloppiness which could have been avoided.

Grade of "D": Minimally acceptable work. Marginal grasp of material, ineffective or confusing presentation. Summarizes the most obvious aspects of the material, but otherwise tends to be irrelevant. Little or no organization. Contains major grammatical problems.

Grade of "F": Unsatisfactory. Superficial, incoherent, and/or irrelevant. Writing ability verges on illiteracy. Plagiarism.

                                                            Last updated Aug. 26, 2008