Dr. Jim Ford                                                                                 Values and Ethics

jford@rsu.edu                                                                               PHIL-1313

Office: Baird Hall 202A                                                                 Fall 2006    

Office Phone: (918) 343-7749                                                      TTh 12:30-1:45 pm

Office Hours: 9-noon MF; 1-2 M;                                                 Classroom: Baird Hall 201

10-11 TWTh.                                                                               No prerequisites.







“But so long as virtue is not rewarded here on earth, ethics will, I fancy, preach in vain.”
-Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents




A study of ethics and values from a comparative and structural basis to include origin and base of formulation.



The course is divided into four sections. In the first section, we begin our study of ethics by examining the nature of justice, with particular reference to the historical examples of Socrates and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the second, we study three classic theories of ethics and morality, focusing on select works from Aristotle, Kant, and Mill. In the third, we look at some more recent treatments of ethics, focusing on such challenges as relativism and nihilism. In the fourth and final section, we discuss the best arguments relating to significant contemporary ethical problems, including such issues as capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion, violence, and religious belief.



Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues. Steven M. Cahn and Peter Markie,

editors. Oxford University Press, 2005.

Available at the RSU Bookstore in Claremore.




This course will emphasize discussion and writing. I will regularly suggest questions pertaining to the material we will be discussing in the following class. Students should come to class prepared to address these questions. You will have to participate to pass this class. Always bring to class the book we are discussing.


There will be three three-page critical essays (approximately 1000 words each), an in-class midterm exam, a group presentation, and a final exam. Students will be assigned to a group by the professor during the second week of the semester.


All essays must be typed and double-spaced, with margins of 1.25 inches. Unexcused late work will be penalized 10% per day. All essays are due at the beginning of the class period. Further details on the nature of these assignments will be given in class. Failure to complete any exam or to make a group presentation on your assigned date will be grounds for failure of the course as a whole.


STANDARDS OF ACHIEVEMENT                      

Every student’s final grade will be earned via the following:

Essays                                      30% (each essay=10%)

Exams                                      30% (each exam=15%)

Presentation                              20%

Participation                             20%


GRADING SCALE                  90-100 A              

                                                   80-89 B 

                                                   70-79 C 

                                                   60-69 D



As discussion is a major portion of your grade (20%) as well as the heart of this class, your attendance is required. More than two unexcused absences will adversely affect your grade; five or more unexcused absences are grounds for failure of the course as a whole. Only serious illness, family crises, or official functions will count as excusable absences or extensions.



Students are expected to follow university policies as put forth in the institution’s Student Code of Responsibilities and Conduct. In accordance with Title 12 of The Student Code (page 11), instances of alleged academic misconduct will follow the policies and procedures as described in Title 12. As a general rule, Faculty at Rogers State University have the responsibility of enforcing the academic code. Therefore, if academic misconduct is suspected I will submit a letter of alleged academic misconduct to the Office of Student Affairs.


            Note especially RSU’s official plagiarism statement: “Plagiarism is representing someone else’s ideas or work as your own ideas or work. To avoid plagiarism when using someone else’s data, arguments, designs, words, ideas, projects, etc., you must make it clear that the work originated with someone else by citing the source.” Deliberate plagiarism and/or other forms of cheating are grounds for failure in the course as a whole.



In order to maintain an effective learning environment, students are expected to fully comply with The Student Code. Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. It is the responsibility of each student to read and become familiar with the policies of The Student Code.



If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities please let me know immediately so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. You will need to provide documentation of your disability to the Office of Student Affairs, Meyer Hall.


Course Schedule




Aug 17 Th        Introduction


Aug 22 T          The Call of Ethics: Plato, Apology (Defense of Socrates) (p. 16-33)


Aug 24 Th        Justice and Ethics I: Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail [hand-out]


Aug 29 T          Justice and Ethics II: Plato, Crito (p. 33-42)


Aug 31 Th        Plato, Republic, Books 1 & 7 (p. 44-65, 102-7)


Sep 5   T          Plato, Republic (more selections)                                  First Essay Due (Plato)




Sep 7   Th        Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics (p. 124-146)            


Sep 12 T          Augustine, Enchiridion... (p. 195-201); Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles (p. 202-17)


Sep 14 Th        Kant, Groundwork..., Section One (p. 290-6)


Sep 19 T          Kant, Groundwork..., Section Two (p. 296-304)        


Sep 21 Th        Mill, Utilitarianism, (selections)                                              


Sep 26 T          Mill, Utilitarianism, (selections)


Sep 28 Th        No class—turn in essay                                                Second Essay Due (Three Traditions)




Oct 3   T          Nietzsche, various works


Oct 5   Th        No class—Maurice Meyer Lecture at 11 a.m.


Oct 10 T          Rachels, The Challenge of Cultural Relativism (p. 651-9)     


Oct 12 Th        Midterm Review


Oct 17 T          MIDTERM EXAM


Oct 19 Th        NO CLASS—FALL BREAK


Oct 24 T          Film and Discussion: Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors


Oct 26 Th        Crimes and Misdemeanors (continued)


Oct 31 T          William James [hand-out]                                                         


Nov 2  Th        Camus, Sisyphus


Nov 7  T          Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism




Nov 9  Th        How Not to Answer Moral Questions [hand-out]        Third Essay Due (Film Ethics)


Nov 14            T          Death Penalty (p. 840-59)


Nov 16            Th        Abortion (p. 739-81)


Nov 21            T          Euthanasia (p. 782-804)




Nov 28            T          Affirmative Action (p. 860-83) 


Nov 30            Th        Sex & Violence, Television & Movies [hand-outs]


Dec 5   T          Terrorism and the Law/Civil Liberties [hand-outs]


Dec 7   Th        Conclusion; Final Exam Review


Dec 11-15       FINAL EXAM           Exact day and time to be announced.


Note: This schedule subject to change as necessary,

particularly the schedule of debate times & topics.   


My office hours are listed above. Please feel free to come by, call, etc., during those hours. If that doesn’t work, I would be happy to schedule an appointment at another time. Communication by email is especially welcome (moderation in this, as in all things...).


Finally, realize that it is not unusual for a course like this one to raise challenges to and doubts about some of our most cherished beliefs. Sometimes we will be talking about sticky subjects like abortion and the death penalty. It is important that each of us is sensitive to the views of those around us. At the same time, each of us should also be aware that controversial issues, arguments, and positions will be discussed in this course. If something bothers or offends you, let me know and I will do what I can.


“And on the other hand, if I say that this even happens to be a very great good for a human being—to make speeches every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me conversing and examining both myself and others—and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being, you will be persuaded by me still less when I say these things. This is the way it is, as I affirm, men; but to persuade you is not easy.”                                           

-Socrates, in Plato’s Apology