Applied Ethics – PHIL 3313-001

Spring 2017 – Texas A&M University – Kingsville

MWF 9-9:50 am
Rhode 126
3 credit hours

Instructor: Brian Robinson, Ph.D.
Rank: Assistant Professor
Office: Rhode 313
Office Hours: MWF 1-4 & F 2-3:30
Phone: (361) 593-3602
Fax: (361) 593-3502
*Preferred Mode of Communication


Catalogue Description

An introduction to contemporary moral issues including corporate responsibility, abortion, capital punishment, drug legalization, animal rights, gay marriage, economic equality, free speech and environmental ethics.

Course Overview

Applied ethics is sometimes regarded as the mechanistic application of clear normative ethical theories (or formulae for ethical decision making) to real-world scenarios to work out the ethical way to behave. It also tends to focus on applying theories to real-world scenarios beyond the purview of typically college students (e.g., justification of war, torture, environmental policy).


Throughout your lives we have, do, and will encounter a wide range of ethical quandaries regarding how to live morally. Learning to examine the various ethical dimensions of these quandaries takes practice and is necessary for leading a good life. This course will exam a wide range such ethical quandaries related to life as a college student, such as dating and sexual relationships, drinking, cheating, campus speech, and consumer ethics. The underlying assumption here is that by learning how to think through ethical quandaries you currently face, students will be able to adapt these moral thinking processes to solve novel ethical quandaries in the future.


This course will not focus on an application of normative theory to real world problems, but rather as a conversation between the two. Our moral intuitions will inform how we interpret different normative ethical theories and which one(s) we endorse. It is necessary, however, to begin with the ethical theory before turning to applied problems in order to then bring these two branches of ethics into conversation.


Students will:

  • Develop the ability to reveal philosophical assumptions of themselves and others through dialogue,
  • Gain an understanding of major normative ethical theories in ethics,
  • Learn how to apply these theories to real world ethical questions,
  • Learn how to re-evaluate ethical theories in light of real world ethical questions
  • Learn to engage in reasoned debate and discussion with others,
  • Improve skills in active reading to understand and explain philosophical texts,
  • Improve your ability to think critically, reason soundly, and write clearly,
  • Develop the ability and a willingness to question one’s own previously unquestioned assumptions.


Technological Requirements

  • • Computer or mobile device that can access Blackboard,
  • Internet-connected device (laptop, tablet, smart phone) or SMS-capable cellphone in class for attendance, quizzes and polling
  • Audio recording device that can produce a digital audio file. (NB: most computers, smart phones, or tablets can already do this without extra software. Speak with the instructor if you do not have access to any such recording device; something will be worked out at no extra cost to you.)

Course Grading

  1. Attendance/Participation/Quizzes – 10%
  2. Weekly Response Papers – 25%
  3. Exam – 20%
  4. Dialogue Project – 20%
  5. Term Paper – 25%


Weekly Response Papers

Students will be required to write a brief response each week responding to the topic(s) and readings of the week. They should be between 250-500 words in length. The primary objective is to display engagement with the text and discussion from the week (and will be graded based on the extent to which that engagement is displayed). There are a variety of formats that these can take, such as but not limited to: (1) presenting a brief criticism of one or more of the readings; (2) raising a question(s) the readings or discussion raised for you; (3) presenting a new connection between the readings (other than one stated by the professor during class); (4) applying the readings or discussion to another course-relevant topic; (5) response to an objection raised in class; (6) your personal view (with supporting reasons) on a topic/issue raised in the readings or discussion. These response papers should not be primarily summaries of the readings.
These summaries are due at the beginning of class on the last day of the week, unless otherwise noted on the schedule below. Students will be required to

A. Bring a copy (digital or printed) of her or his summary to class to be shared with fellow students

B. Submit the summary online (.doc, .docx, or .pdf formats only) on Blackboard prior to the beginning of class on the last day of the week, unless otherwise noted on the schedule below.

These writings must be submitted via Blackboard and will not be accepted in any other format.
The primary focus of these responses should be for student to briefly articulate her or his own view on the topic. This short response can then be expanded upon for the Term Paper.

Dialogue Projects

There will be one group dialogue project. The groups will be two (or three if necessary and pre-approved by the instructor). Each group will conduct and record a philosophical dialogue on one of the assigned Applied Ethics topics. Each student will then upload to Blackboard the audio file of the dialogue and a written summary. The minimum length of the dialogue will be 15 minutes. The conversation must stay on topic for that length of time. 20% of the grade will be based on the dialogue itself. 80% will be based on each student’s individual work (preparation for the dialogue and the written summary).


There will be one exam, over metaethics and ethical theory. Since the point of studying philosophy is not to memorize who said what, but rather to understand what was said (and be able to explain it in your own words), the exams will be take-home and open-notes exams. The questions will be distributed at least one week prior to the due date. The are to be submitted via Blackboard. They will be subject to an automated plagiarism checker (Turnitin or similar).

Term Paper

There will be one term paper focusing on one of the assigned Topics in Applied Ethics (see below). A rough draft will be required. The are to be submitted via Blackboard. They will be subject to an automated plagiarism checker (Turnitin or similar).


Attendance and Participation

Since philosophy is hard and much of the course will be discussion based, attendance is necessary for learning. It is your responsibility to be in class. Attendance will be taken regularly, and at the beginning of class. You may miss up to five class days without penalty, but on the sixth missed day your overall grade in the course will be reduced by one-half grade for each day missed beyond the fifth. Falsifying the attendance of another student by signing in for them carries the penalty of immediate course failure. (See Academic Misconduct below.) I do not provide make-up lectures for students who were absent from class. (If, however, a student has problems understanding certain points about material covered during an absence, I will help by answering specific questions.)

Please provide documentation if absences are due to legitimate reasons. (That means come talk to me.) Excused absences are absences excused by the university for official purposes, those excused by me in advance, or those excused subsequently for documented reasons (e.g., health problem, family emergency). I will review material from an excused absence, after the student has obtained notes from a classmate and if the student has clearly read the assignment first.

Participation includes being in class on time, having the assigned text for the day, and being attentive in class. Simply being physically present in class is not sufficient to attain a passing attendance grade. As such, it is necessary to demonstrate some form of active engagement in the learning process.

Besides being on time, and silencing cell phones, I must stress the importance of everyone allowing for an open forum for discussion, so that we are all free to speak our minds on any topic without condemnation or hostility. Our job is to examine and evaluate ideas, not each other.

Top Hat

We will be using the Top Hat ( classroom response system in class. You will be able to submit answers to in-class questions using Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, laptops, or through text message.

You can visit the Top Hat Overview ( within the Top Hat Success Center which outlines how you will register for a Top Hat account, as well as providing a brief overview to get you up and running on the system.

An email invitation will be sent to you by email, but if don’t receive this email, you can register by simply visiting our course website:

Note: our Course Join Code is 151592

Top Hat will require a paid subscription, and a full breakdown of all subscription options available can be found here:

Should you require assistance with Top Hat at any time, due to the fact that they require specific user information to troubleshoot these issues, please contact their Support Team directly by way of email (, the in app support button, or by calling 1-888-663-5491.

Reading Assignments

The schedule for reading assignments is provided below. They are to be read prior to that day’s class. Students are required to always bring the assigned reading to class. Students are required to have either a printed copy or a means of accessing the PDF in class. Please download them before class.

Office Hours

My office hours are listed above. My door is open and I highly encourage students to come see me. If my office hours don’t work for you, let me know and something can be arranged.


I am available by email and you are welcome to contact me with questions. I generally respond the same day. However, you should think of any email to me as something formal, instead of as a casual email to a friend. You must include a subject, a salutation, and your name. I advise you read the following as well:


All assignments must be turned in by the date and time specified. I do not accept late work unless class was missed for a documented emergency that arose without time for you to submit your work in advance. If you know that you will miss a class session prior to that session, you will need to submit your assignment in advance.


A (100-90): Outstanding. The student displays thorough mastery of all material and genuine engagement with the subject matter. This grade is reserved for those individuals who attain the highest levels of excellence in thought and expression. Exceptionally good writing.
B (80-89): Good. The student displays accurate understanding of the bulk of material. Writing is clear and free of mechanical errors.
C (70-79): Adequate. The student displays basic grasp of roughly three fourths of the course material. There may arise occasional misunderstanding or inaccuracy. Writing is acceptable.
D (60-69): Marginal. The student displays a grasp of the course material that deserves credit. Quality of apprehension of material indicates lack of effort and/or lack of aptitude.
F (<60): Unacceptable. The student displays virtually no grasp of the course material.

Six Drop Policy

The following provision does not apply to students with Texas public college or university credits prior to Fall 2007. The Texas Senate Bill 1231 specifies the number of course drops allowed to a student without penalty. After a student has dropped six courses, a grade of QF will normally be recorded for each subsequent drop. Additional information on Senate Bill 1231 is available at the Registrar’s Office at (361) 593-2811 and at

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disability. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation please contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) as early as possible in the term at (361) 593-2904. DRC is located in the Life Service and Wellness building at 1210 Retama Drive.

Classroom Conduct Expectations

Students are referred to the Student Code of Conduct section of the Student Handbook.

Students are expected to assume individual responsibility for maintaining a productive learning environment and conduct themselves with the highest regard for respect and consideration of others. Ongoing or single behaviors considered distracting will be addressed by the faculty member initially, but if the behavior becomes excessive and the student refuses to respond to the faculty member’s efforts, the issue will be referred to the Dean of Students. In the case of serious disruptive behavior in a classroom, the instructor will first request compliance from the student and if the student fails to comply, the instructor has the authority to ask the student to leave the classroom. The student is expected to comply with the instructor’s request and may subsequently contest this action using procedures established by the department. If the student fails to leave after being directed to do so, assistance may be obtained from other university personnel, including the University Police Department. The incident shall be handled as an academic misconduct matter using established departmental procedures for academic misconduct to determine if the student should be allowed to return to the classroom.

Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to adhere to the highest academic standards of behavior and personal conduct in this course and all other courses. Students who engage in academic misconduct are subject to University disciplinary procedures. Students are expected to be familiar with the current Student Handbook, especially the section on academic misconduct, which discusses conduct expectations and academic dishonesty rules.

Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

  1. Cheating: deception in which the student misrepresents that he/she has mastered information on an academic exercise that he/she has not mastered; giving or receiving aid unauthorized by the professor on assignments or examinations.
  2. Aid of academic dishonesty: Intentionally facilitating any act of academic dishonesty. Tampering with grades or taking part in obtaining or distributing any part of a scheduled test.
  3. Fabrication: use of invented information or falsified research.
  4. Plagiarism: unacknowledged quotation, and/or paraphrase of someone else’s work, ideas, or data as one’s own in work submitted for credit. Failure to identify information or essays from the internet and submitting them as one’s own work also constitutes plagiarism. Please be aware that the University subscribes to the Turnitin plagiarism detection service. Your paper may be submitted to this service at the discretion of the instructor.
  5. Lying: deliberate falsification with the intent to deceive in written or verbal form as it applies to an academic submission.
  6. Bribery: providing, offering or taking rewards in exchange for a grade, an assignment, or the aid of academic dishonesty.
  7. Threat: an attempt to intimidate a student, staff or faculty member for the purpose of receiving an unearned grade or in an effort to prevent reporting of an Honor Code violation.

Other forms of academic misconduct include but are not limited to:

  1. Failure to follow published departmental guidelines, professor‘s syllabi, and other posted academic policies in place for the orderly and efficient instruction of classes, including laboratories, and use of academic resources or equipment.
  2. Unauthorized possession of examinations, reserved library materials, laboratory materials or other course related materials.
  3. Failure to follow the instructor or proctor‘s test-taking instructions, including but not limited to not setting aside notes, books or study guides while the test is in progress, failing to sit in designated locations and/or leaving the classroom/ test site without permission during a test.
  4. Prevention of the convening, continuation or orderly conduct of any class, lab or class activity. Engaging in conduct that interferes with or disrupts university teaching, research or class activities such as making loud and distracting noises, repeatedly answering cell phones/text messaging or allowing pagers to beep, exhibiting erratic or irrational behavior, persisting in speaking without being recognized, repeatedly leaving and entering the classroom or test site without authorization, and making physical threats or verbal insults to the faculty member, or other students and staff.
  5. Falsification of student transcript or other academic records; or unauthorized access to academic computer records.
  6. Nondisclosure or misrepresentation in filling out applications or other university records.
  7. Any action which may be deemed as unprofessional or inappropriate in the professional community of the discipline being studied.

The penalty of academic misconduct is no credit for the assignment or an F for the course.

Harassment /Discrimination

Texas A&M University-Kingsville will investigate all complaints that indicate sexual harassment, harassment, or discrimination may have occurred by the facts given by the complainant. Sexual harassment of anyone at Texas A&M University-Kingsville is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Any member of the university community violating this policy will be subject to disciplinary action. A person who believes he/she has been the victim of sexual harassment, harassment, or discrimination may pursue either the informal or the formal complaint resolution procedure. A complaint may be initially made to the complainant’s immediate supervisor, a department head, any supervisory employee, the Dean of Students (593-3606), or the Office of Compliance (593-4758). Regardless of who the complaint is filed with, the Compliance Office will be notified of the complaint so it can be investigated.


The following is the tentative schedule. It is subject to change during the course of the semester (including readings, assignments, and exam dates). I will announce in class and post online any such changes. Readings are to be completed before coming to class on the assigned day. All readings are from the textbook unless noted below.


1/18 Louis Pojman,”How to Read and Write Philosophy Papers


1/20 – Plato, Republic bk II: Glaucon on Justice
1/23 – James Rachels, “Morality is not Relative” AND James Rachels, “The Divine Command Theory”

Ethical Theory

1/25 – “Utilitarianism”
1/27 – “Utilitarianism”
1/30  -“Kant and Deontological Theories”
2/1 – “Kant and Deontological Theories”
2/3 – Aristotle – “The Ethics of Virtue;  REC: “Virtue Theory”
2/6 – Rosalind Hursthouse, “Right Action”
2/8 – John Rawls, “The Contemporary Liberal Argument”
2/10 – Robert Nozick, “Against the Liberal Argument”

Topics in Applied Ethics

Sex and Relationships
2/13 – Stephens – “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
2/15 – Halwani – “Virtue Ethics, Casual Sex, and Objectificaiton”
2/17 – Kelly – “Sexism in Practice: Feminist Ethics Evaluating the Hookup Culture”
Exam due – 9 am

Drugs and Drinking
2/20 – Dixon – “Alcohol and Rape”
2/22 – de Marneffe – “An Argument for Drug Prohibition”
2/24 – Machan – “Drug Prohibition is Both Wrong and Unworkable”

Racism and Prejudice
2/27 – Blum – “Racism: What It Is and What It Isn’t”
3/1 – Kelly & Roedder – “Racial Cognition and the Ethics of Implicit Bias
3/3 – Westacott – “How Not to Accuse Someone of Prejudice”

Speech on Campus
3/6 – Delgado & Stefancic – “Words that Wound”
3/8 – Golding – “Campus Speech Restrictions”
3/10 – Lukianoff & Haidt – “The Coddling of the American Mind”

Spring Break

Language, Politics, and Humor
3/20 – Hill – “Symbolic Protest and Calcuated Risk” 
3/22 – Morreall – “The Negative Ethics of Humor” 
3/24 -Orwell – “Politics and the English Language” 

Lying, Bluffing, and Omitting the Truth
3/27 – Kant – “On the Supposed Right to Lie”
3/29 – Borghini – “The Ethics of Lying” AND Marks – “The Truth About Lying”
3/31 – No Class

Consumer Ethics
4/3 – Behr – “Rules of Acquisition” AND Carr – “Is Business Bluffing Ethical?”
4/5 – Cicero – “On Duties”
4/7 – Forcehimes – “Download This Essay: A Defense of Stealing E-Books”

4/10 – Karjiker – “A Response to Forechimes’s “Download This Essay”
4/12 – Singer – “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
Weekly Summary Due (Wed)
Term Paper – Rough Draft Due
4/14 – No Class – Good Friday

4/17 – Cassidy – “Women Shopping and Women Sweatshoping”
4/19 – Sinnott-Armstrong – “It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligation
4/21 – Hourdequin – “Climate, Collective Action, and Individual Ethical Obligation”

Cheating and Grades
4/24 – Bouville – “Why is Cheating Wrong”
4/26 – Roache – “Enhancement and Cheating”
4/28 – Enck – “Ideals of Student Excellence and Enhancement”
5/1 – Pynes – “Seven Arguments Against Extra Credit”
5/3 – Wrap Up Day (No Weekly Summary Due)


5/10 Term Paper Due @ 10:40 am