24.231 | Fall 2009 | Undergraduate




Short papers should be approximately 1200 words, and the final paper should be 2000-2500 words.

Short paper 1 (PDF)
Short paper 2 (PDF)
Short paper 3 (PDF)
Final paper (PDF)


I’d like you to sign up for presentations in pairs. The presentations will be short and informal, and their main purpose is to get the discussion going. Here are some basic guidelines:

The presentations will be brief. Aim for 10 minutes, together (and don’t go over 15!).

You should certainly meet up before your presentation to talk through the reading (that’s part of the point!), decide what you want to say, and who will say what. I expect each of you to talk. Feel free to disagree with each other!

You should not aim to discuss very much. You shouldn’t try to explain every argument in the reading. Give us a very quick account of what the reading is basically about. Pick an argument in it or an issue it raises that interested you, and explain it, as clearly as you can.

  • Is the question important?
  • Do you think the argument works?
  • What are the key premises on which it relies?
  • Are there objections to the argument that we should talk about more in class?
  • Does it leave you with worries or questions we should discuss?

Be organized, be clear, be specific, and be concise. Don’t try to tackle too much in the short time you’ll have. I recommend making a handout, perhaps outlining the argument or issue you’ll be discussing and briefly stating your main objections, concerns, or questions, which you can then elaborate on in the presentation. (The handout shouldn’t include everything you’re planning to say!)

(When I say that you should aim to talk for 10 to 15 minutes, I’m talking about the time you should plan to spend talking. I’ve found in the past that presentations are often interrupted for discussion mid-stream - that’s a good thing. I won’t look at that as exceeding your time limit.)

Here is the presentation schedule:

4 Ayer’s “The Emotive Theory of Ethics”
7 Foot’s “Moral Relativism”
10 Lyons’s “Ethical Relativism and the Problem of Incoherence”
11 Mill’s “Utilitarianism”
12 Nozick’s “The Experience Machine” and Parfit’s “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best?”
13 Norcross’s “Comparing Harms: Headaches and Human Lives”
15 Lenman’s “Consequentialism and Cluelessness”
18 Nagel’s “Autonomy and Deontology”

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2009
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments