Outline of a Syllabus




Instructors using The Elements of Moral Philosophy with The Right Thing to Do might like this idea: students read the chapters of Elements in sequence, with RTD selections being paired with appropriate chapters. There are many ways to do this, but here is one suggestion.

Ch. 1, "What is Morality?" (Elements)
"Some Basic Points about Arguments," James Rachels (RTD, #2) [This goes with the introductory theme of ch. 1.]
"The New Eugenics," Matt Ridley (RTD, #36) [This goes with the bioethics theme of ch. 1.]

Ch. 2, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" (Elements)
"Monogamy: A Critique," John McMurtry (RTD, #28) [This goes with the brief discussion of polyamory on pp. 29-30 of Elements; the readings below also concern sexual ethics.]
"Our Sexual Ethics," Bertrand Russell (RTD, #29)
"Alcohol and Rape," Nicholas Dixon (RTD, #30)

Ch. 3, "Subjectivism in Ethics" (Elements)
"The Subjectivity of Values," J. L. Mackie (RTD, #6) [This defends a version of Ethical Subjectivism.]
"Is Homosexuality Unnatural?" Burton M. Leiser (RTD, #27) [This is an expanded version of the argument given on pp. 44-45 of Elements.]

Ch. 4, "Does Morality Depend on Religion?" (Elements)
"Why Abortion Is Immoral," Don Marquis (RTD, #11) [One aspect of the abortion debate is discussed on pp. 57-61 of Elements.]
"A Defense of Abortion," Judith Jarvis Thomson (RTD, #12)
"On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion / Postscript on Infanticide," Mary Anne Warren (RTD, #13)

Ch. 5, "Ethical Egoism" (Elements)
"9/11 and Starvation," Mylan Engel, Jr. (RTD, #17) [Poverty is discussed on pp. 62-63 of Elements.]
"The Singer Solution to World Poverty," Peter Singer (RTD, #18)
"Is Racial Discrimination Arbitrary?" Peter Singer (RTD, #32) [This essay asks whether "The Principle of Equal Treatment" (as we call it on p. 77 of Elements) applies to three difficult test cases.]

Ch. 6, "The Idea of a Social Contract" (Elements)
"Letter from the Birmingham City Jail," Martin Luther King, Jr. (RTD, #31) [King's letter is quoted on pp. 90-91 of Elements.]
"In Defense of Quotas," James Rachels (RTD, #33) [This reading goes with King's "Letter from the Birmingham City Jail." In King's day, America was so racist that preferential quotas were justified. Are they justified today?]

Ch. 7, "The Utilitarian Approach" (Elements)
"Utilitarianism," John Stuart Mill (RTD, #3)
"The Morality of Euthanasia," James Rachels (RTD, #34) [Euthanasia is discussed on pp. 98-101 of Elements.]
"Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life?" Richard Doerflinger (RTD, #35) [Assisted suicide is different from euthanasia, but the topics are similar.]
"America's Unjust Drug War," Michael Huemer (RTD, #26) [Marijuana is discussed on pp. 101-104 of Elements.]
"All Animals Are Equal," Peter Singer (RTD, #14) [The treatment of animals is discussed on pp. 104-108 of Elements.]
"Torturing Puppies and Eating Meat: It's All in Good Taste," Alastair Norcross (RTD, #15)
"Do Animals Have Rights?" Tibor R. Machan (RTD, #16)

Ch. 8, "The Debate over Utilitarianism" (Elements)
"Utilitarianism and Integrity," Bernard Williams (RTD, #4) [This selection presents Williams' most famous objection to Utilitarianism.]
"The Experience Machine," Robert Nozick (RTD, #5) [This selection presents Nozick's most famous objection to Hedonist Utilitarianism.]

Ch. 9, "Are There Absolute Moral Rules?" (Elements)
"The Categorical Imperative," Immanuel Kant (RTD, #7) [The Categorical Imperative is discussed on pp. 127-129 of Elements.]
"The Ethics of War and Peace," Douglas P. Lackey (RTD, #19) [The Allies' conduct of the Second World War is discussed on pp. 124-126 of Elements.]
"Fifty Years after Hiroshima," John Rawls (RTD, #20) [The bombing of Hiroshima is discussed on pp. 124-126 of Elements.]
"What Is Wrong with Terrorism?" Thomas Nagel (RTD, #21) [The readings on war and terrorism go together. Also, Nagel implies that the prohibition on aiming at the death of a harmless person is an absolute moral rule.]
"The War on Terrorism and the End of Human Rights," David Luban (RTD, #22) [This continues the themes of war and terrorism.]
"Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb," David Luban (RTD, #23) [One may ask: is the prohibition on torture an absolute moral rule?]

Ch. 10, "Kant and Respect for Persons" (Elements)
"A Defense of the Death Penalty," Louis P. Pojman (RTD, #24) [Punishment is discussed on pp. 139-145 of Elements. We discuss the death penalty specifically on p. 143.]
"Why the United States Will Join the Rest of the World in Abandoning Capital Punishment," Stephen B. Bright (RTD, #25)

Ch. 11, "Feminism and the Ethics of Care" (Elements)
"Caring Relations and Principles of Justice," Virginia Held (RTD, #10) [See pp. 152-157 of Elements.]

Ch. 12, "The Ethics of Virtue" (Elements)
"The Virtues," Aristotle (RTD, #8)
"Master Morality and Slave Morality," Friedrich Nietzsche (RTD, #9) [Nietzsche glorifies the virtues of "master morality" and ridicules the vices of "slave morality."]

Ch. 13, "What Would a Satisfactory Moral Theory Be Like?" (Elements)

The only RTD selection I've omitted is James Rachels, "A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy" (RTD, #1). That reading summarizes Elements, so students reading Elements needn't read it.

--Stuart Rachels