Humn2: Philosophy I

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HUMN2: Philosophy I

Thomas Randall |

Philosophy translates to “love of wisdom”. Philosophers, then, aim to ascertain wisdom: from discovering the nature of reality (metaphysics), to finding secure foundations of knowledge (epistemology), and determining what, if anything, has value in the world (axiology). Metaphysics and epistemology encompass many different subjects: from the natural sciences (formerly known as natural philosophy; this includes physics, chemistry, and so on) and the social sciences (psychology, sociology, and so on). Metaphysics and epistemology will be investigated in HUMN3. HUMN2 introduces you to philosophy through axiology – specifically, the study of what holds moral value. This semester will be a search for moral wisdom, to find an answer to the Socratic question: how ought we to live? Throughout this semester, you will be presented with the most influential moral theories derived throughout Western history and tasked with applying them to analyze everyday moral dilemmas. These are dilemmas such as: should abortion be made illegal? What is morally wrong about assisted death (euthanasia)? Should we bring back the death penalty and methods of torture? And should we eat meat?
The emphasis throughout this course is on the critical evaluation of arguments. In our weekly discussions, we will examine the arguments put forward in the readings and consider whether they are persuasive. None of the moral theories presented will be singled out as the “right” moral theory to answer these above difficult questions. You will instead be given the opportunity and responsibility to reach your own well-reasoned conclusions.
Required Reading Material


Topic (Lecture and Seminar)





Recommended: Prologue and Ch.1.

In-class Reviews (10 x 3% = 30%), each seminar.


Utilitarianism I

Ch. 2, up to “How is happiness to be distributed?”


Utilitarianism II

Ch. 2, “How is happiness to be distributed?” to end of chapter.


Deontology I

Ch. 3, up to “The good will, sparkling like a jewel.”


Deontology II

Ch. 3, “The good will, sparkling like a jewel” to end of chapter.


Eudaimonia I

Ch. 4, up to “Doubting the virtue of virtue ethics.”

Annotated Bibliography for Mini-Essay (10%)


Eudaimonia II

Ch. 4, “Doubting the virtue of virtue ethics” to end of chapter.


Reading Week


God I

Ch. 5, up to “The problem of evil.”

Mini-essay / In-class Peer-review of Mini-essay (15% / 5% = 20%)


God II

Ch. 5, “The problem of evil” to end of chapter.


Existentialism I

Ch. 6, up to “Nothing more complex than thermostats?”


Existentialism II

Ch. 6, “Nothing more complex than thermostats?” to end of chapter.

Draft of Final Essay (5%)


Logic I

Ch. 7, up to “Spreading ourselves onto the world.”


Logic II

Ch. 7, “Spreading ourselves onto the world” to end of chapter.

Final Essay (20%)


Exam Revision

Final Exam (15%)
Cave, Peter. 2015. Ethics: A Beginners Guide. London: Oneworld Publications. Available in Fleming’s book store.

Extra Resources Beyond the Readings:

  • If you understood the week’s reading and want to deepen your knowledge, have a look through “Notes and further readings” in the textbook, alongside reading chapters 8–10.

  • Some helpful online resources:

    • The “Justice” course delivered by Michael Sandel at Harvard University. All lectures on Youtube.

    • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    • (a list of bad arguments and how to spot them).

    • The Philosophy Bites podcast, hosted by Nigel Warburton.

  • Some resources to avoid:

    • Sparknotes.

    • Wikipedia.

Distribution of Grades
In-class Reviews (10 x 3% = 30%)

For the first 20 minutes of each seminar, you will be given a quiz with eight multiple-choice questions and a short-answer question (which has a correct answer) based on the corresponding week’s reading. This is not an open-book assessment so you must have completed the reading! Your final grade will reflect your best 10 in-class reviews. If you miss the beginning of the seminar you will not be able to complete this assignment (exceptions for legitimate reasons of absence).

Annotated Bibliography for Mini-Essay (10%)

Due in Week 6 for upload to D2L. Examine the three questions on offer for the mini-essay (see below) and choose one that sounds the most interesting to research for an annotated bibliography. This bibliography should have 2-4 sources, with at least two coming from either (but not necessarily both):

  1. An academic book (usually published by a university, e.g. Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, etc. Also see: Routledge, Bloomsbury, Springer, Palgrave, Rowman and Littlefield, SAGE).

  2. An academic peer-reviewed journal.

The annotated bibliography should summarize and critically engage with each source. The full grading scheme is on D2L.

Mini-Essay / In-class Peer-review of Mini-essay (15% / 5% = 20%)

Due in hard-copy for Week 9’s seminar, you will answer one of the following three questions for the mini-essay:

  1. Should hate speech be made illegal? Answer with reference to Bentham and Mill.

  2. Is euthanasia morally wrong? Answer with reference to Kant and Bentham.

  3. Is torture ever morally correct? Answer with reference to Kant and Mill.

The word count is 500-750 words and should be fully referenced using MLA. The structure should follow the SHARK procedure (found on D2L). When handing in the hard-copy for Week 9’s seminar, the paper should only have your student number on it – NOT YOUR NAME. The class will then engage in a peer-review grading system, where you will grade each other’s papers.

If you turn up to the seminar without your mini-essay, you may still engage in the peer-review process. However, you will only be able to receive a maximum of 5% out the full 15% that is up for grabs in this assignment. If you cannot attend the class for peer-review, this should be notified to me by email in advance of 24 hours. Notifications given after the peer-review has taken place will not be considered.
Draft of Final Essay (5%); Final Essay (20%)

Due in Week 12 (draft) and Week 14 (final essay), the essay is an independent assignment that will consist of a 1,000-word thesis (10% leeway) based on a topic of your choice. It is strongly recommended you arrange to meet me to discuss your essay topic and structure as soon as possible. Draft and essay should be submitted via the dropbox on D2L. A grading rubric can be found on D2L.

Final Exam (15%)

The final exam will be sat in the 2-hour seminar of Week 15. The lecture of Week 15 will be a revision session. The exam will offer 10 long-answer questions to choose from. You only need to answer 2 of these 10 questions (ideally, you should write 1 answer per hour).

What is Expected of You in HUMN2?
Do not expect good grades to come your way with minimal work. You must work hard for your grades, intellectually challenge yourself, and proactively reach out to others for help when needed. I will be here to aid you every step of the way. However, what remains your responsibility is to:

  1. Read the syllabus to plan and schedule your readings and assignments. Those students who do not keep up with the readings, or choose to write assignments extremely close to the due date, do not succeed. (That is not a challenge.)

  2. Do your research to make sure you do not plagiarize. Remember, you reference a source not only when you copy out the text exactly, but also when you paraphrase or copy an idea (even if you put that idea into your own words). Plagiarism is not tolerated, and I will have no sympathy for those who do so. For a helpful website to reference in MLA, see:

  3. Seek help from the resources available at Fleming College for improving grammar and writing skills.

  4. Turn up to class on time, especially the seminars (for the in-class reviews). The lectures expand on the reading, providing greater context and information. The seminars are your opportunity to ask questions, engage in discussion, and debate different points of view. In all classes, turn off your phones.

  5. Email me or visit my office hours if you need help outside of class. I check my emails between 9am–5pm, Monday–Friday. Bare this in mind if you decide to email at the last minute in the midnight hour for help about an assignment. You will not get an extension if I reply after the due date based on the times I check my emails.

  6. As an additional point on emails, learn how to email instructors in a formal professional manner. An email is not a text. If you email unprofessionally, I will respond by telling you so. I will then expect you to respond by turning your unprofessional email into a professional one. Only then will I respond appropriately to your queries.

  7. Treat other classmates with respect. In this class, controversial issues will be raised in discussion. It is paramount you don’t shout over the speaker, talk to others while someone else is talking to the class, or engage in personal attacks. Attack the argument, not the person.

  8. Recognize that if you find an argument offensive, merely claiming offense does not defeat the argument. To silence an argument just because it is offensive undermines and suppresses free discussion. You must learn instead to articulate a reasoned argumentative response. Attending class, doing the readings and assignments, and speaking to me and others inside and outside of class will aid you in this noble endeavor.

  9. Look after yourself! Get some sleep, eat breakfast, exercise, socialize, and don’t kid yourself about the hours and hours you will spend on a particular assignment in one day. Successful students recognize that spending loads of time on a project in one sitting is not feasible. You are more productive if you work hard for an hour or two, then take a deserved break.

Late Policy
Students are responsible for attending classes on the required day and time when there is a lecture, seminar, group presentation, quiz, or exam. Unless you have a legitimate excuse, no extension or extra credit assignments are given. Students must submit/present all written/oral assignments on their assigned dates unless they make specific arrangements in writing/voice mail/e-mail with me at least one day prior to the due date in question.
What counts as a legitimate excuse for an extension: mental or physical illness (must have doctor’s note, or a note of similar equivalence); bereavement; dangerous travel weather (only applicable for in-class assignments).
What does not count as a legitimate excuse for an extension: work (this is a matter of better time management); computer deleted your assignment (continuously save and back up your assignments); forgetfulness or ignorance about an assignment; being away on holiday (including weddings and similar events – again, time manage effectively).
A penalty of 5% per calendar day will be applied to an assignment not submitted by the original or extended due date. An assignment more than six calendar days late, including weekends, will receive a grade of zero. No assignment will be accepted after the last day of classes without prior written arrangement.
All forms of plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you are caught plagiarizing, I will:

  • 1st offence at the College: Assign a mark of 0 for the evaluated activity.

  • 2nd offence at the College: Assign a mark of 0 for the course in which the second offence at Fleming occurred.

  • 3rd offence at the College: Suspend student from the College for a year.

  • 4th offence at the College: Expel student from the College.


Classroom Behaviour
Students are not permitted to use cellphones, iPods, laptops, or other portable electronic devices for the purposes of sending/receiving calls, text messaging, or web surfing during lectures or seminars.
I allow students to drink (non-alcoholically) in class. I do not allow food in class. Based on past experience, having food in class is disruptive, messy, and smelly. If you are hungry, time manage your diet effectively or finish eating outside of class.
An Extra Reading List
At Fleming College, you will be expected to engage in a lot of reading. This will not change at university: your readings will in fact increase. It is therefore good routine to set aside an hour or two each day to read, for both school and leisure. Do not try to fit all your readings into one sitting. You will burn out, become frustrated due to fatigue and potentially demoralized. You learn best when you schedule your readings appropriately throughout the week.
Alongside the textbook of this course, here are some other highly influential books that I strongly recommend you read at some point over the next two semesters for general reading. While the list is obviously not exhaustive, I have tried to piece together 10 books from different historical and social contexts, both fiction and non-fiction. Do not expect these books to be compatible with one another – there will be moments where the ideas found in one book will severely clash with the ideas found in another book. It is up to you, the reader, to take responsibility for reaching your own conclusions.
I am more than happy to discuss any of these books during office hours. I have listed them in order of ease to read, with no. 10 being the hardest:

  1. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

  2. 1984, by George Orwell

  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

  4. Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer

  5. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  6. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

  7. On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill

  8. Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucault

  9. Republic, by Plato

  10. Beyond Good and Evil, by Friedrich Nietzsche

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