Syllabus For Contemporary Moral Dilemmas

Contemporary Moral Dilemmas
Phil 111 - Spring 2018 - Dr. Keith Korcz

How To Reach Professor Keith Korcz:

My office is in H. L. Griffin Hall, rm. 563. My office hours are MW 12:00 – 1:00 and 2:15 - 4:15, Th 12:00 – 3:00, and F 12:00 – 1:00. We can also meet at other times by arrangement - just ask. My office phone number is 482-6806. You can also contact me (or ask questions) by e-mail at

Required Texts:

1. "Contemporary Conflicts of Morals" Course Pack (available only via the Moodle course page)
2. Animal Liberation: Updated Edition by Peter Singer. (Harper, 2009)


Assignments & Grading:

There will be three in-class exams, the two during the semester each worth 25% of your course grade, and the cumulative final exam worth 30% of your course grade. There will also be a paper, to be completed in two drafts, worth 20% of your course grade. The in-class exams will consist primarily of short answer and multiple-choice questions. However, all make-up exams will be primarily long-essay. The exams will cover both lectures and assigned readings (material in lectures and assigned readings will not always overlap). All exams are closed book/closed note. The paper must be approx. 7 - 8 pages in length, and will be described in more detail later. There is also one required extra-credit assignment.

The course grades will initially be determined according to the standard scale, i.e., 90-100% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, 60-69% = D, 59% and below = F, and then may be modified as follows:  Course grades might be curved, but, if so, the curve would not be such that any student's grade is lowered. Such factors as improvement over the length of the course, class participation, etc., may be taken into consideration, especially where doing so may improve a borderline grade. You must complete all course assignments (including all exams and both drafts of the paper) to receive a passing grade (i.e., a grade other than F, NC or U).

Class Policies:

If you miss class, for whatever reason, it is your responsibility to get class notes from another student. Missed assignments can be made up, and absences excused, only if an appropriate excuse, e.g., illness requiring medical attention, participation in certain university-sponsored events, dangerous weather, etc., is provided. If you miss an assignment due date, you must notify me within one week of either the due date or the cessation of a medically documented persistent vegetative state in order to make up the assignment. An unexcused late assignment will be dropped 2/3 of a letter grade per day it is late. For every five unexcused absences or partial absences, your course grade will be dropped by a letter grade. During class, remember to turn cell phones off and to put them away. Finally, be sure you are familiar with all university policies described in the UL Lafayette Undergraduate Bulletin and Code of Student Conduct. All assignments for this class must be completed individually, and any instance of academic dishonesty on any assignment will be sufficient to fail the course.

Disability Accommodations:

Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first be registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) to verify the disability and to establish eligibility for accommodations. Students may call 337-482-5252 or visit the ODS office in the Conference Center/Agnes Edwards Hall, room 126. Once registered, students should then schedule an appointment with the professor to make appropriate arrangements.

Internet Resources:

I strongly recommend taking advantage of the following resources I have created for you!
My Philosophy 111 Home Page contains links to an on-line syllabus (which contains numerous links to home pages of authors we'll be reading, readings available on-line, etc.), study aids, and other resources you will find helpful. The address is:
My How To Survive Your First Philosophy Course pages contain useful information about what I look for when grading papers, how to study for my exams, reading philosophy, taking notes, doing research in philosophy, etc. The address is:
My home page contains links to all my course home pages, extensive links pages on philosophy, general research, fun sites, and lots of other information. The address is:
A Moodle page will also be created for this course.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures:

A map of this floor is posted near the elevator marking the evacuation route and the Designated Rescue Area. This is an area where emergency service personnel will go first to look for individuals who need assistance in exiting the building. Students who may need assistance should identify themselves to the teaching faculty.



You should complete each of the readings before they are discussed in class. Some of the readings are difficult, and you may find that you need to re-read them after they have been discussed in class in order to fully understand them. Note: Assignments, due dates and class procedures are tentative and may change.

NOTE: Readings in [brackets] are not required.

(AL) = Animal Liberation
(CP) = Course Pack, available via the Moodle course page

Topic 1: Moral Reasoning and Ethical Theory

a. Cultural Relativism
(CP): “0. Introduction” and “1. Moral Relativism” by Keith Korcz.

Monday, Jan. 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - No Classes.

b. Understanding Philosophy and Ethics
(CP): “2. Philosophy and Moral Reasoning" by Keith Korcz.

c. Religion and Ethics
(CP): “3. The Divine Command Theory” by Keith Korcz.

d. Philosophical Ethics I: Utilitarianism & Value
(CP): “4. Utilitarianism" and
“5. Theories of Value”  by Keith Korcz.

e. Philosophical Ethics II: Moral Rights
(CP): “6. Moral Rights” by Keith Korcz.

f. Where Does Morality Come From? Why Be Moral? & Other Issues
(CP): “7. Where Does Morality Come From?” and “8. Why Be Moral” by Keith Korcz.

Topic 2: Same-Sex Marriage

a. Homosexuality, Nature and Society
(CP): "Lesbian and Gay Basics" and "Civil Rights" by Richard D. Mohr.


Monday, Feb. 12 -  Wednesday, Feb. 14 – Mardi Gras - No Classes.

b. Gay Marriage
(CP): "How Domestic Partnerships and 'Gay Marriage' Threaten the Family" by Robert H. Knight; "Amicus Brief for Obergefell Case" by the American Psychological Association; excerpts from Obergefell v. Hodges by The United States Supreme Court [the complete decision is available on SCOTUS blog. In Class Video: Ballot Measure 9. [Here is some information about one of the producers, Linda Kliewer. Read the NYT review of the movie. You can also visit the home page of  Basic Rights Oregon.]

Topic 3: Ethics and Animals

a. Animal Suffering & The Overall Good
(AL): all Prefaces and Chapters 1-4.

b. Replies To Singer
(CP): "The Challenge to Utilitarianism" by Tom Regan; "Pain, Amelioration and the Choice of Tactics" by R. G. Frey; "Darwin, Species and Morality" by James Rachels.

Monday, March 12 – Advising for FA18 begins.


Topic 4: Abortion

a. Factual Background + Abortion & The Rights Of Persons
(CP): "Abortion and Mental Health: What Therapists Need to Know" by Lisa Rubin and Nancy Felipe Russo; "An Almost Absolute Value in History" by John T. Noonan; "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion" by Mary Anne Warren (Sec. II & Postscript only).


Friday, March 30 Sunday, April 8 – Spring Break - No Classes.

b. Abortion and Indirect Strategies
(CP): "An Argument that Abortion is Wrong" by Donald Marquis; "A Defense of Abortion" by Judith Jarvis Thomson, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion" by Mary Anne Warren (Intro. and Sec. I only).

Topic 5: The Death Penalty

a. Factual Background
(CP): "This Man Has Expired: Witness to an Execution" by Robert Johnson.

b. Arguments For The Death Penalty
(CP): "In Defense of the Death Penalty" by Louis Pojman; "Aggravated Murder and Capital Punishment" by Tom Sorell.


c. Arguments Against The Death Penalty
(CP): "The Case Against The Death Penalty" by Hugo Adam Bedau; "Rights and Capital Punishment" by Thomas Hurka.



Some Helpful Tips:

1. On class evaluations, students often state that they would tell friends planning to take this class that good class attendance and good class notes are essential to doing well on the exams.
2. Keep up with the readings - they further explain and help you to remember the issues you'll be tested on.
3. If you're having trouble understanding course material, do not hesitate to discuss it with your instructor!