107-237B (Contemporary Moral Issues) Instructor: Gerry Beaulieu Office: 933 Leacock Office Hours: TBA e-mail: [email protected] Course Description: In this course, we will examine some of the major moral controversies facing us today, such as abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, the environment, affirmative action, and sexuality. We will critically evaluate arguments stemming from various perspectives on these issues. The aim of the course is to learn to appreciate the significance of the reasons offered in support of different and often opposing moral views, as well as to learn to argue (i.e., provide rational considerations) for your own views. To that end, we will begin with a brief general introduction to moral theory in order to provide us with a foundation for discussing the issues. We will examine three classical moral theories (namely, utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics), which purport to provide answers to philosophical questions such as ‘How ought one to live?’ ‘What makes an action right or wrong?’ and ‘What makes a good person?’ Many of the authors we will discuss, when we take up the contemporary issues, tacitly assume or directly rely on one or another of these theories and so it will be useful to familiarize ourselves with them in advance. The focus of the course, however, will be on the issues and the particular arguments offered from the various perspectives on them. I will provide a detailed reading list at the beginning of term. Course Method: You are required to attend two weekly lectures (Monday and Wednesday) and one weekly conference (Thursday or Friday). While it is difficult to engage in an extensive in-class discussion with a class of this size, I will encourage focused questions (i.e., questions directly pertaining to the lecture material). But, given the size of the class, I reserve the right to press on with the lecture. The conferences are where you will get a chance to discuss more extensively the material and your own arguments regarding the issues. Evaluation: There are four formal requirements for this course: (i) three short (3-4 page) papers (20% each) (ii) a final exam (40%) You must hand in all three papers and write the final exam. Paper topics will be distributed at least one week in advance. Late papers will be penalized one half grade per late day (e.g., from a B to a B-). While there is no formal grade assigned to conference participation, you are expected to attend your conferences having read the relevant material and prepared to discuss it. Participation can affect your mark if it is borderline (e.g., between a B and B+). Text: James E. White, Contemporary Moral Problems, 7th edition. The text will be available at Paragraphe Bookstore, 2220 McGill College.