24.02 | Fall 2008 | Undergraduate

Moral Problems and the Good Life



This course provides an introduction to important philosophical debates about moral issues and what constitutes a good life: What is right, what is wrong, and why? How important are personal happiness, longevity, and success if one is to live a good life? When is it good for you to get what you want? To what extent are we morally obliged to respect the rights and needs of others? What do we owe the poor, the oppressed, our loved ones, animals and fetuses?


Reading, discussing, and writing about the assigned readings are the central activities of this class. (No outside research will be necessary.) There is a reading assignment for each lecture. Some are quite difficult and demand careful study. You should complete the assigned readings before each lecture as the lecture will often presuppose familiarity with the material in the texts.

Attendance at all lecture and all recitation sections is required. Lectures will introduce important material not in the readings. As mentioned above, one goal of the course is to help students develop their critical and argumentative skills. Because of this — and to meet the requirements for a Communication-Intensive course — participation in section is an especially important component of the course.

Criteria for Communication Intensive (CI) Subjects in the Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences (HASS)

Communication intensive subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences should require at least 20 pages of writing divided among 3-5 assignments. Of these 3-5 assignments, at least one should be revised and resubmitted. HASS CI subjects should further offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression, through presentations, student-led discussion, or class participation. In order to guarantee sufficient attention to student writing and substantial opportunity for oral expression, the maximum number of students per section in a HASS CI subject is 18, except in the case of a subject taught without sections (where the faculty member in charge is the only instructor). In that case, enrollments can rise to 25, if a writing fellow is attached to the subject.


All written exercises (except those completed in class) must be typed or word-processed. Please keep a copy of all work you turn in. Late work will be accepted only under exceptional circumstances, and will be penalized unless an extension is granted in advance. The instructor reserves the right to fail any student in the course who fails to perform at a passing level in any of the grading areas listed above; so, for example, attendance at recitation is required and consistent failure to attend will result in an F for the course.

Recitation 20%
Three (5 page) papers 60%
Final exam 20%

Recitation Grade

Recitation evaluation will be based on attendance, preparation, contributions to discussion, and any written or oral assignments, including 2 argument analysis exercises (2-3 pages). (The two exercises together must total at least five pages.)

Three (5 page) Papers

Paper topics will be distributed in advance and will ask students to analyze and discuss material covered in class. Guidelines for papers will be handed out in class. (The three papers together must total at least fifteen pages.) Either the first or second paper must be rewritten and resubmitted (this is required of all students to fulfill the CI requirement). You will be expected to revise your first paper, unless you have received permission from your TA to revise your second. Your grade for the revised paper will be the average of the grades for the two versions. (Note that revised papers are held to a higher standard.)

Note: Papers must be submitted electronically to your teaching assistant. It is your responsibility to be sure that it has been received. Your TA may also require you to submit a hard copy of the paper.

Final Exam

You will be required to take a 3-hour final exam on material covered throughout the term. The final exam will be at least 2/3 essay format, and essay questions will be distributed in the final lecture of the term. The exam will be closed-notes and closed-books. (There is no midterm exam.) The time and date will be set by the Schedules Office Final Examination Schedule. But sure to check this schedule early and notify the Schedules Office of any conflicts.

Note: Students will be required to take the exam at the scheduled time unless permission has been granted by the Schedules Office to take the exam at an alternate time. Permission to take the exam early will not be given to students who simply want to leave town early for the holidays, even if this is your only exam. Do not book flights home before you know the exam schedule.


Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course. If in doubt about what counts as plagiarism, or about how to properly reference a source, consult the instructor or your TA. Other forms of academic dishonesty include: cheating on exams, double submission of papers, aiding dishonesty, and falsification of records. If academic dishonesty is proven, at the very least you will fail the course and a letter will be sent to the Committee on Discipline documenting your dishonesty. If you are tempted to plagiarize because you are in crisis, it is always better to speak to your TA, the professor, your advisor, the academic deans, the counseling center, or another trusted authority on campus who can help you handle the crisis. The following (slightly modified) was distributed to HASS-D instructors by the HASS Committee for use in their classes.

Statement Regarding Academic Misconduct

To put it bluntly, plagiarism is theft and fraud — it is the theft of someone else’s ideas, words, approach, and phrasing; it’s fraud because the writer is trying to profit (a grade) by claiming as his/her own someone else’s work.

Because plagiarism can have severe disciplinary consequences, it is crucial to understand the concept. Just as scientists demand complete and accurate information about experiments so that they duplicate and check those experiments, so scholars and readers demand complete information so they can check your use of sources and accuracy in reporting what others said. In all academic writing, then, you must give complete citations (e.g., author, title, source, page) each time you use someone else’s ideas, words, phrasing, or unusual information. An insidious form of plagiarism is the “patchwork paper” — some words and ideas taken from source A are stitched together with words and ideas from source B and source C and….

Your essays should be your own work, although you are encouraged to seek writing advice from the Writing and Communication Center. If there is any question about whether the student’s paper is his or her own work, TA’s have been directed to bring the paper directly to the professor. Every effort will be made to determine whether the paper is plagiarized. This is an attempt to be fair to the teachers and the other students in the course.

There are 4 guidelines for using sources in your essays:

  • There is never a good reason to paraphrase a source — either summarize it in your own words or quote it exactly (citing the source in either case).
  • When you quote, quote exactly, use quotation marks, and cite the source.
  • When you use information that might not be considered common knowledge, cite the source.
  • When in doubt about whether or not to give a citation, always give a citation.

Additional information: Citing and Using Sources

How to Cite a Source

If your paper discusses a single essay assigned for the course, and if you make clear what essay that is in the body of the text, then you may cite the essay by putting the page number of the quotation or paraphrase in parentheses next to the stretch of text. (I will assume you are using the version of the text provided for the course. If not, please provide the full reference.) E.g.,

In his essay, “The Will to Believe” William James offers a critique of Clifford’s evidentialism. He argues that “In truths dependent on our personal action, then, faith based on desire is certainly a lawful and possibly an indispensable thing.” (107)

If you use a source not assigned for the course, include the full reference for the source in a bibliography, and at the point in the text where you need to cite the source, put the author’s last name, date of publication, and page number, e.g., (Armstrong 1978, 75).

To cite internet sources, see Online Citation Styles.

If you have questions, be sure to contact the instructor or your TA.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2008
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments