Fall 1998

Marist College

Dr. Greg Moses

Course Description

In this course we will explore ethical dimensions of our personal and public lives. What might motivate our commitments to morality? How might we approach pertinent issues of social control? And how might we assess the contours and limitations of our own moral worldviews? These are some of the main questions that will concern us in this course as we seek to develop an approach to the likely moral issues that will confront us in the future.

Required Texts
  • Thomas, Laurence. Living Morally. Temple, 1990. (0-87722-778-0)

  • Dewey, John. Ethics (Later Works 7: 1932). Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1989. (0-8093-1575-0)

  • Bowden, Peta. Caring. Routledge, 1997. (0-415-13384-X)

Requirements and Grades

The final grade will be based upon the following assignments, each equally weighted:

  • Participation and Preparation: Students are encouraged to undertake regular preparations for class and to participate in the shaping of our class conversations.
  • Paper on Moral Issue (see 4 b., below)
  • Paper on Social Control (see 9 b., below)
  • Paper on Moral Framework (see 13 a., below)
  • Final Paper on Moral Frontier (see 15 b., below)


By the end of the course, students should be able to assess their own moral issues from various points of view, identify and develop important issues of social control, and reflect upon their own moral framework from a critical perspective. Papers will assess student progress in these areas. A final exam will ask students to develop a scholarly approach to an important moral frontier of our age.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend all classes. Given the wide range of personal needs that may arise, the instructor is willing to make allowance for two absences. Any absences beyond this limit must be excused and documented, or they will count against the student's final grade. Documentation will be accepted within two weeks of the absence. More than two unexcused absences will result in a letter grade reduction from the final average. For more than four unexcused absences, the instructor reserves the right to enter a failing grade.

Weekly Schedule
(Each week is divided into two sessions, a. & b. Preparations are due, typed, at the beginning of class at the designated session.)

1. (Aug. 31 - Sep. 4)

a. Introduction:

Welcome; syllabus; overview.

b. Introducing Thomas

  • Read: Thomas, Chapter 2.
  • Prepare: One paragraph commentary on a passage from the reading.
  • Workshops: Personal introductions; share commentaries; nominate one representative to report to class.
  • Forum: On the evolution of morality. A choice of Darwinisms.
  • Preparing for next time: On the division of readings.
    Labor Day Weekend (Monday off)

    2. (Sep. 8 - 11)

    a. Living Morally

  • Read: Thomas, Chapter 3, "Parental Love: A Social Basis for Morality."
  • Prepare: One paragraph commentary on a passage from the reading.
  • Workshops: Share commentaries; nominate a representative.
  • Forum: On the viability of parental love. How does the possibility of parental love disclose human morality? How do the many difficulties of parental love challenge this basis of social morality?

    b. Living Morally

  • Read: Thomas, Chapter 4, "An Account of Friendship."
  • Prepare: One paragraph commentary on a passage.
  • Workshops: Share commentaries and nominate one rep for each of the three sections of the chapter. Note: Please ensure fair rotation of all group members.
  • Forum: Friendship; Aristotle; Romance.

    3. (Sep. 14 - 18)

    a. Living Morally

  • Read: Thomas, Chapter 5, "Friendship: A Social Basis for Morality."
  • Prepare: One paragraph commentary.
  • Workshops: Share commentaries. Nominate one rep per section. What video would you recommend for ethical viewing?
  • Forum: Autonomy; self-examination; sensibility.
  • Preparation for Week 5: Selecting a video.

    b. Living Morally

  • Read: Thomas, Chapter 6, "Character and Society."
  • Prepare: One paragraph of commentary on a passage.
  • Workshops: Share commentaries. Nominate one rep per section.
  • Forum: Rejecting Platonism.

    4. (Sep. 21 - 25)

    a. Living Morally

  • Read: Thomas, Chapter 7, "Living Well" and Chapter 8, "The Damned"
  • Prepare: One paragraph commentary on a passage.
  • Workshops: Share essays. Nominate one.
  • Forum: Self-love; natural sentiments; psychic harmony. Self-Esteem; Kant. Has Thomas succeeded? If so, was it an effort worth making? Is it interesting, helpful, edifying?

    b. Video Selection to be Announced:

    Can we develop a Thomasian reading of the video? Can we see how Thomas' approach to moral life may be used to discuss moral conditions and predicaments as found in the video?
  • Assignment Due Next Week:Four page paper (1,000 words): select an issue of moral life, discuss how Thomas might approach the issue, draw your own conclusion about the issue, discuss your similarities and differences with a Thomastic point of view. Making use of artistic renderings (such as videos) of the moral issue is highly recommended. (Note: Begin with a moral issue that interests you, then test the Thomastic connections.)

    5. (Sep. 28 - Oct. 2)

    a. Introduction to Dewey and Tufts

  • Read: Dewey's Ethics, pp. 9-17.
  • Lecture: Introducing Dewey and Tufts. The historical method of moral philosophy. Moral experience, pluralism, post-Darwinian naturalism, relativity, and a century of mechanized holocaust.
  • In class writing: Make a list of moral heroes and villains.
  • Workshops: Collate lists. Nominate reporter.
  • Forum: On the uses of moral examples. How do our stories help shape moral sensibilities? Whom do we select as exemplary? What stories do we live?

    b. A Moral Anthropology

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 2-5.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs (1) summarizing an important lesson of your selected chapter and (2) providing your opinion of the lesson.
  • Workshops: Sharing and comparing notes.
  • Forum: How do we think about the "first days" of human experience and how does such thinking affect our model of morality? How might Thomas respond to this material?
  • Preparation for next time: Dividing the four chapters on history (Dewey Chapters 6-9). Round up a half-dozen moral examples (heroes or villains) from each period of history.

    6. (Oct. 5 - 9)

    a. Ethics by Dewey and Tufts

  • Read: Selected Chapter from 6-9.
  • Prepare: One paragraph commentary and one paragraph description of a moral example from the period of history covered by the chapter.
  • Workshops: Share commentaries and prepare group report.
  • Forum: Presentations of historical periods: Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Modern.

    b. History of Ethical Life Continued

  • Lecture: On the Neglect of Egypt.
  • Discussion: What does Tufts mean by "growth" in moral life? In what sense have we outgrown another time's moral life? How do we use this model of "growth" to assess ourselves and others today? Is it possible to talk of moral life or history without growth?
  • Preparation for next time: Dividing Chapters 10-14 (each group should divide readings for Chapter 10 to ensure coverage of all sections; Chapters 11-14 will be assigned for group presentation.) In other words, everyone reads Chapter 10 plus one additional chapter.

    7. (Oct. 12 - 15)

    a. Dewey's Ethical Theory

  • Read: Dewey, Chapters 10-14 (see assignments above.)
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs: one passage from Chapter 10, and one paragraph from the designated chapter.
  • Workshops: Share comments on Chapter 10 and prepare group report on designated chapter (11-14).
  • Forum, Part One: On the nature of moral theory, according to Dewey.

    b. On Three Independent Factors:

  • Group reports: How Dewey arranges the great schools of ethical theory: duty, good, custom (Chapters 11-14).
  • Preparing for next time: Chapter 15 in common; dividing Chapters 16-19.
  • Preparing for Week 10: A video on social & political issues. Where is an issue deserving of more intelligent social control? Can we locate a relevant video?
    Midterm Break (Friday off)

    8. (Oct. 19 - 23)

    a. Self and Society

  • Read: Dewey & Tufts, Chapters 15-19, see above.
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs: one on your section of Chapter 15; one on your section of Chapters 16-19.
  • Workshops: Share commentaries on Chapter 15, nominate a rep. Prepare group report on designated Chapter 16-19.
  • Forum, Part One: The Moral Self and its Circle.

    b. Selected Social Issues:

  • Group reports: Some social and political considerations from part three of Dewey and Tufts.

    9. (Oct. 26 - 30)

    a. Concluding Dewey & Tufts with a Video

  • Read: Dewey & Tufts, Chapters 20-23.
  • Prepare: One paragraph of commentary.
  • Video: To be announced. Can we see how Dewey and Tufts would approach the social issues presented in this video?

    b. On Social Control of Public Life

  • Prepare: A one paragraph summary of your philosophical response to the video.
  • Workshops: Share preps and responses to video. Nominate presenters.
  • Forum: Some considerations of ethics and social control.
  • Assignment Due Next Week: Select an issue of social control; discuss [1] how the moral questions reflect historical situations (from part one of Dewey and Tufts), [2] how considerations might reflect duty, good, and custom (part two of the book), and [3] how social control might be rendered more intelligent from your own point of view. Give two pages to each of the above sections for a total of six pages (1,500 words). Research beyond popular sources of newspapers and magazines is strongly encouraged.

    10. (Nov. 2 - 6)

    a. Introducing Bowden's Caring

  • Read: Introduction, pp. 1-20.
  • Prepare: Questions on the reading.
  • Workshops: Sharing questions.
  • Discussion: Questions on the feminist challenge.

    b. Thomas and Bowden on Mothering and Friendship:

  • Prepare: One paragraph summary comparing Thomas to Bowden.
  • Workshops: Comparing Bowden and Thomas.
  • Discussion: Living morally and caring.

    11. (Nov. 9 - 13)

    a. Bowden on Nursing

  • Read: Bowden, 101-140.
  • Prepare: Commentary on a passage.
  • Workshop: Sharing commentaries, nominating reps.
  • Forum: Working morally. Looking at one area where caring and institutional interests collide.

    b. Working Morally (Continued)

  • Prepare: One paragraph reflection on some field of work, applying Bowden's analysis of Nursing. Please choose a field where you have some experience or where you plan to work.
  • Workshops: On the wide world of work.
  • Discussion: On the relation between quantity and quality in human systems. Rule of law vs. rule of "men." Contradictions or conflicting goods?

    12. (Nov. 16 - 20)

    a. Bowden's Citizenship

  • Read: Bowden, 141-182.
  • Prepare: Commentary on a passage.
  • Workshops: Sharing and nominations.
  • Forum: Citizenship and caring.

    b. Caring and Justice:

  • Prepare: Two paragraphs of reflection on some area of civic life where you have experience or where you plan to participate. What would provide a healthy moral outlook for this area of civil life from Bowden's point of view? What do you say about a healthy moral outlook for this area?
  • Workshops: Sharing views of civic life.
  • Forum: Continuing citizenship in a complete life.

    13. (Nov. 23 - 25)

    a. Video Presentation

  • Applying Bowden: How can we apply Bowden's approach to the material presented in the video?
  • Assignment due next week: Frameworks of moral approach. In this assignment you are asked to [1] assess the actual framework of moral reasoning that you rely upon at this point in your life. What criteria do you value, what goods do you seek to secure, etc. [2] Present Bowden's general warnings about contemporary frames of moral reasoning. [3] Assess your own framework from Bowden's point of view. [4] Do you think Bowden presents useful considerations? Why or why not? Please dedicate two pages of discussion to each section (total of eight pages or 2,000 words).
    Thanksgiving Break ( Wednesday evening, Thursday, and Friday off)

    14. (Nov. 30 - Dec. 4)

    a. Review, Part One

  • Review: Bowden
  • Prepare: Two paragraphs: summarize Bowden's contribution to ethics; what do you think?
  • Workshops: Sharing and nominations.
  • Forum: Feminism, care, and, the 21st Century.

    b. Review, Part Two

  • Review: Dewey & Tufts.
  • Prepare: Two paragraph summary and commentary.
  • Workshops: On the value of Dewey and Tufts.
  • Forum: On lasting impressions.

    15. (Dec. 7 - 11)

    a. Frontiers of Ethics:

  • Review: Thomas
  • Prepare: Three paragraphs: identify and describe an ethical frontier that looms either in your personal life or in the life of a group that you belong to (family, neighborhood, city, state, country, planet, etc.); which book of the semester is most helpful to you as you think about the challenge; what do you think is needed in the way of moral transformation?
  • Workshops: Sharing ethical frontiers.
  • Forum: Ethical frontiers and their challenges.

    b. Final Exam Considered

    The final exam will ask you to [1] identify and present an ethical frontier, [2] summarize the general lesson of each book in the course, [3] assess the relevance of each book to the frontier that you have in mind, and [4] provide your own ethical reflections on the problem. Please dedicate two pages per section for a total of 8 pages (2,000 words).
    Final Exam Due by Dec. 18, 5 p.m.
    Contact Information

    Telephone extension: 2217.

    Email: jz7r@maristb.marist.edu

    Office: cubicle in Humanities temporary offices, ground floor of Student Center.

    Office hours: TBA.

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