PHL1042C   Ethics    TR 11:30 am-12:51 pm RC 423 CRN 91296

Professor Christian Perring, Department of Philosophy.


E-mail: perringc at  [All email to me should have "PHL1042" in the subject line]

Texting: message me at 631-256-7167, always starting your message with PHL 1042 and your name.

Office Phone: 244-3349

Office: 330B RC (next to the computer lab)

Office Hours: Monday 230-430pm, Tuesday 230-430pm, Thursday 230-430pm

Holidays: Mon Sept 7 Labor Day, Monday Sept 14 and Tuesday Sept 15, Rosh Hashana, Wednesday Sept 23 Yom Kippur, Wednesday November 11, Veterans Day, Wednesday November 25 and Thursday November 26 Thanksgiving


TextbookEthical Choices: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy with Cases, by Richard Burnor and Yvonne Raley.  Oxford University Press, 2011.  ISBN-13 9780195332957

Link: Publisher's web resources for students

The course textbook is now available in electronic form online, via  They have an app so that you can view textbooks on tablets and iPads as well as on computers.
Here is the link.


Course description.  This course will cover central ethical theories, including the work of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Adam Smith, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Dewey, and some contemporary philosophers.  Students will each do a presentation, in-class quizzes and tests, a paper, and some reflections.  They will be expected to actively participate in class or online, because in articulating your thoughts to others, you both teach others and also learn more about yourself.  The aim of this course is to teach you what some of the great philosophers have said about morality, but also to get you to think for yourself about morality, how other people think though moral decisions, and how you make your own moral choices.  Through this examination of morality, you should become a more rational moral agent.


Learning outcomes:


How Your Grade Is Calculated.

Participation: 20%

Tests (In class quizzes and assignments, Midterm and Final): 45%

Paper: 35%


Reading assignments: The reading is listed in the syllabus below.  You must do the reading before that week.  You should be familiar with the main ideas in each assigned chapter, and you should make notes of those parts that are hard to follow.


Plagiarism detection and prevention: All papers should be submitted via in MS Word or RTF.  I will give you information about how to use  Note that I view any form of academic dishonesty very seriously, and if I find that you have engaged in any significant form of plagiarism or cheating I will fail you in this course and report my action to the Dean of Students.


Attendance:  Attendance is required. You need to be in the classroom by the start of the class period, when I will take attendance.  If you are late, you only get half-credit for attendance that day.  If you are late to class, you need to speak to me at the end of class to explain why you were late and ask me to record your presence on my roster.  If you need to miss a class, you should notify me by phone or email before the class.  If you are ill and see a medical professional, or you have an unavoidable legal obligation, you should show me some documentation as evidence.  Your attendance grade will suffer significantly if you miss classes without excuse.  If you miss classes, you should write a 600 word summary of the reading assigned for that class, or arrange some alternative make-up work.  If you miss more than 5 classes without excuse, you will fail the course.  Arriving late for class will count as an absence unless you make sure that I registered your presence, and then you get half-credit. 


Participation: You should participate in class discussion, both answering questions that are put to the class, raising questions when you do not fully understand an idea or a part of the text, or what someone in the class says.  There is a Blackboard site for this course, and you can also participate and discuss issues there.


Exams: 2 exams.  You need to show your understanding of the material.  This means you need to be able to read and explain a passage of text by the philosophers discussed in the course, and you need to know how the different philosophers relate to each other logically.


Classroom Etiquette.  All cell phones ringers should be turned off and you should never talk on your cell phone in class.  You should never text in class and your texting device needs to be put away. Don't put your bag on the desk and put your phone behind it--that is just annoying.  You should not eat any food in class, especially food that others will notice through sound or smell.  You should turn up on time to all classes.  You are free to express your views and question the views of others, including your professor, and you can be passionate about your opinions.  However, you must always treat others in the class with respect; you can criticize the views and arguments of others, but you cannot criticize them as persons.  You should also make sure you are not dominating classroom discussion to the exclusion of other class members. 

Email Etiquette.  For guidelines about what format to use when emailing your professors, check the webpage here.


Academic and Personal Problems.  If you have problems that cause you to be late with work or to miss a number of classes, please stay in communication by phone, email, or by meeting with me in person.  I will be willing to work with you and sort out a way for you to still stay in the class and get a fair grade.  If you miss a number of classes or fail to hand in work on time but don't give me any explanation then you risk failing the class.  Most people experience some sort of crisis during their college career, and you need to find ways to make sure that such problems don't ruin your college career.  You need to meet with me to arrange a solution to your problem getting work done early on: it is too late after the final deadline for work to try to sort out a solution then.


HANDING IN YOUR WORK: Your final paper should be submitted in via  Do not submit anything via email unless I specifically ask you to -- normally I will not be able to keep track of work submitted by email, because I get too many messages each day. 


Email and Blackboard.  You should check your Dowling email at least twice a week.  You should check the Blackboard shell for this course at least once a week.


Keeping Copies of Your Work.  It is your responsibility to keep copies of all your work in this course until your final grade is submitted.  You need to keep copies of your work in at least 3 different places, because all storage methods are fallible.  Floppy disks are very unreliable and I recommend you don't use them.  If you do use them, back them up every day.  Better methods of storage are writable CDs, flashdrives or jumpdrives, zip-drives, hard disks, and emails to yourself with your work attached to the emails.  You can also use free online backup programs such as Mozy or Dropbox.  It can be a good idea to print out your work and keep a hard copy.  But remember that no method of data storage is perfect, which is why you should keep your work stored in at least 3 separate places.


 All work due by Thurs Dec 17.




Work Due

Sept T 1

What is ethics?

Textbook Chapters 1 and 2

IEP on Ethics




Textbook Chapter 6

Bernard Mandeville

IEP entry

IEP entry on Egoism


T 8

Psychological Egoism by Josh May in IEP

Non-scholarly article:

Luke Glowacki: Are Humans Violent by Nature? Probably


R 10

Natural sympathy

Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments, pages 4-21

IEP on Adam Smth


R 17

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Adam Smith’s moral philosophy

T 22

Differences in moral views, cultural diversity; Relativism

Chapter 4

TV show on The Hamar Tribe

R 24

Emrys Westacott on moral relativism in the IEP

Velleman on moral relativism


T 29


Pragmatic Ethics by

Hugh LaFollette

Oct R 1

Dewey’s Moral Philosophy by Elizabeth Anderson

T 6

Nihilism, Skepticism, Non-cogntivism & Error Theory

Alan Pratt on Moral Nihilism

Moral Skepticism by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

R 8

 Personal Morality and Moral Agency

Chapter 3


T 13

IEP Jane Dryden on Autonomy

SEP Sarah Buss on Personal Autonomy


R 15

Moral reasoning

 Textbook Chapter 5


T 20




R 22




T 27

Act Utilitarianism


Chapter 7


R 29

Rule Utilitiarianism

Chapter 8


Nov T 3


IEP on Consequentialism


R 5

Deontological Ethics

Chapter 9


T 10


SEP on Kantian Ethics


R 12

Natural Law

Chapter 10


T 17


SEP Mark Murphy on Natural Law Tradition in Ethics

Final paper due

R 19

Virtue Ethics

Chapter 11


T 24


IEP Kevin Timpe on Moral Character

SEP Rosalind Hursthouse on Virtue Ethics


Dec T 1

The Ethics of Care

Chapter 12

IEP on Care Ethics


R 3

Blaming and Responsibility

IEP Garath Williams on Praise and Blame


T 8


SEP Andrew Eshleman on Moral Responsibility


R 10




T 15



Final Test

R 17

Final meetings