Phil 1200: Contemporary Social Problems

Fall 2017

Course Syllabus

Schedule (subject to change!)

Below is a tentative schedule of what topics we will cover, and what reading(s) you should complete BEFORE each class meeting.

M, Aug 28

Topic: About this course—An Intro to Contemporary Social Problems
No reading assignment

W, Aug 30

A Brief Intro to Philosophy and its Methods
Reread course syllabus

F, Sep 1

 A Brief Intro to Philosophy and its Methods continued
Video (1.5 hours long)- “History of the World

M, Sep 4

Labor Day- No Class!

W, Sep 6

Politics, Irrationality, and Critical Thinking
Read: Huemer, “Why People are Irrational about Politics.” P. 1-7
Short Video:

F, Sep 8

Politics and Irrationality continued
Re-read: Huemer, “Why People are Irrational about Politics.” P. 1-7
Video: Huemer and Examples of Irrationality-

M, Sep 11

Politics and Irrationality Continued
Read: Huemer, “Why People are Irrational about Politics.” P. 7-16
Suggested film: "Idiocracy"

W, Sep 13

Politics and Irrationality Continued
Reread: Huemer, “Why People are Irrational about Politics.”

F, Sep 15

Finish Huemer
Logic and Arguments
Reading: :Layman, “Logic, Ch.1
Suggested  humorous reading: Dave Barry “How to Win an Argument

M, Sep 18

Logic and Arguments Continued
Reread Layman, “Logic, Ch.1

W, Sep 20 

Logic and Arguments Continued
Reading: Rachels, “On Arguments

F, Sep 22

Finish Logic
Start Cultural Relativism
Reading: Rachels on Cultural Relativism
Suggested film: "Avatar"

M, Sep 25

Cultural Relativism
Suggested film: "Enemy Mine"

W, Sep 27

Finish Objections to Cultural Relativism
Reread: Rachels on Cultural Relativism

F, Sep 29

Cultural Relativism Takeaways and Discussion

M, Oct  2

Morality and Religion- Is God the Source of Moral Truth
Reread: Shafer-Landau- "Does Ethical Objectivity Require God?" 

W, Oct 4

Finish God and Morality
Start Arguments for God's Existence
Reading: Quick Guide to Arguments for God's Existence

F, Oct 6

Arguments for/against God's Existence
Reread: Quick Guide to Arguments for God's Existence
Humerous(?) Reading: Flying Spaghetti Monster

M, Oct 9

Problem of Evil Argument
Finish Meta-Ethics discussion
Reading: Arguments Against God's Existence (start at Religious Pluralism section)

W, Oct 11

Finish Problem of Evil and Philosophy of Religion section

F, Oct 13

The State of Nature
Reading: Hobbes, The Leviathan (excerpts)
Video: Steven Pinker, The Surprising Decline of Violence (20min)
Warning- graphic content
Recommended Movie: “The Purge”
Recommended TV show: “The Walking Dead”

M, Oct 16


W, Oct 18

Game Theory and Prisoner’s Dilemma
Video: Dawkins, "Nice Guys Finish First"
Dupre, “The Prisoner’s Dilemma
Suggested movie: A Beautiful Mind
Suggested Video: Huemer (first 50 minutes)- Psychology of Power   

F, Oct 20


M, Oct 23

Reading: J.S. Mill- Utilitarianism (excerpt)
Video: “The Trolley Problem”
Suggested film: Cabin in the Woods or Watchmen  

W, Oct 25 

Utilitarianism (continued)
Suggested film: Sophie’s Choice or The Village

F,  Oct 27

Midterm exams returned and reviewed

M, Oct 30

Utilitarianism (continued)
Reading: Rachels, “The Debate over Utilitarianism
Suggested film: Ender’s Game  

W, Nov 1 

Utilitarianism & Objections
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Reread Rachels, "The Debate over Utilitarianims"

F, Nov 3

Utilitarianism: Objections to Consequentialism
Reread Rachels, "The Debate over Utilitarianims"
**Homework Assigned**

M, Nov 6

Utilitarianism: Objections to Consequentialism and Impartiality
Reread Rachels, "The Debate over Utilitarianims"

W, Nov 8

Why should we have to share? Are we obligated to donate to ease world hunger?
Reading: Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality
Video: Sobering Stats on Poverty

F, Nov 10

Poverty and World Hunger- Responses to Singer
Re-read: Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
Video: (short) Key and Peele "Save a Child"
Foreign Aid Infographic

M, Nov 13

Singer Continued
Reading: none

W, Nov 15

Distributive Justice, The Original Position and the Veil of Ignorance
Suggested article: Quick Overview of Rawls and Nozick on Distributive Justice
Rawls- A Theory of Justice (excerpt)

F, Nov 17

Class (and Office Hours) Cancelled (per in-class vote)
Have a great break! :-)

M, Nov 20

Fall Break- no class

W, Nov 22

Fall Break- no class

F, Nov 24

Fall Break- no class

M, Nov 27

Rawls and Egalitarianism Continued
Required Video (6 min): Rawls and the Original Position
Rawls- A Theory of Justice (excerpt)
Short online articles on the current distribution of wealth: here, here, and here

W, Nov 29

Finish Rawls, Start Libertarianism
Video (10 minutes): What is Justice?
Reread Rawls' "A Theory of Justice"

F, Dec 1

Libertarianism- Distributive Justice revisited
Nozick-Anarchy, State, and Utopia (excerpt)

M,  Dec 4

Egalitarianism vs. Libertarianism
Ben Hale- The Veil of Opulence 
Article: The US is an Oligarchy
Suggested short article: Tax Havens for Big Companies

W, Dec 6

Rawls vs. Nozick (continued)
Reading: None

F, Dec 8

Civil Disobedience- When government fails…
Plato, “Crito

M, Dec 11

Civil Disobedience continued
MLK ,“Letter from the Birmingham Jail”

W, Dec 13

Summary day
United Nations: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Optional, but interesting, video: Sam Harris - What can science tell us about morality?

Final Exam              on official day scheduled by Registrar’s office (Posted in your mycuinfo)




Additional Resources for Students

Guidelines on writing a philosophy paper (J. Pryor)
Writing Philosophy Essays (M. Tooley)
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Oh the power of learning philosophy...

8/20/17: Time for the new semester! Materials for PHIL1200 Fall 2017 are posted in the Courses/Teaching section.

5/6/16: I'm honored to be the first person to receive both the Philosophy Department Morriston Teaching Award (2016) and the University of Colorado Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award (2014-2015)! My thanks go out to the many great teachers and students with whom I've been lucky enough to learn!

Office Hours: MWF, 12:10pm-1pm.
Location: Innisfree Coffee on the Hill.

Please feel free to drop by with any questions, or simply to chat about philosophy, life, the universe and everything...

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