Los Angeles Valley College, Fall 2007         K.L. Ross, DrKelley@AOL.com
Philosophy 20, Ethics                            Office:  Campus Center 224
Th 6:45-9:55 PM (3310), CC 205                       Phone:  (818) 947-2467


       Ethnic America, Thomas Sowell
       The Analects, Confucius
       Affirmative Action Around the World, Thomas Sowell
       Life at the Bottom, Theodore Dalrymple (suggested)

       Handouts for this class can be purchased in booklets at the
       Campus Bookstore, or they can be examined and downloaded from the
       World Wide Web, with some web links and extra graphics, at:

CONTENTS:  The course is intended as a survey of the theory and some
   practical issues of ethics and value theory.  Besides the common concern
   of ethics courses with moral obligation and moral problems, emphasis
   will also be placed on the nature of value:  how matters of value exists
   and how we know it.  There is probably less emphasis on various moral
   problems in this class than in other ethics classes, since I don't see
   much point in arguing about moral problems unless we have some clue
   about the principles that would enable us to solve them.

Unit 1:  Discussion of moral dilemmas and some basic principles of
   capitalism.  Dilemmas in handout.  Tentative quiz, October 4

Unit 2:  The nature of ethics and of value.  Basic distinctions in ethics,
   how value is known, the objectivity or subjectivity of value, etc.
   Tentative midterm, November 8.

Unit 3:  Various historical theories in ethics.  Selections from The
   Analects, plus handouts.  Tentative quiz, December 6

Unit 4:  Moral Problems.  Selected topics as time permits.  Ethnic America
   and Affirmative Action Around the World, plus handouts.  Possible topics:
   capitalism, socialism, discrimination, affirmative action, abortion,
   sexual ethics, capital punishment, etc.  Final Exam, 6:45 PM, Thursday,
   December 20, CC 205.

ATTENDANCE:  This is primarily a lecture class:  tardiness and absences
   thus will result in missing material that cannot be found in the texts
   or in other sources.  The texts are primary sources which are not
   self-explanatory; and you will not find what I say in encyclopaedia
   articles or in most other books.  Believe me, you will not do well in
   the class unless you are present for the lectures or arrange to obtain
   lecture notes, and it is your responsibility to arrange with others
   to obtain the  materials for classes that you miss.  You may tape
   record lectures.

   After the third week attendance is no longer taken for each class
   meeting.  However, attendance will be taken occasionally and randomly,
   and students with more than a week of absences may be excluded for
   non-attendance.  Do not report absences to me.  It is your own
   responsibility to drop the class if you wish to do so (final drop date:
   November 25th).  Anyone on the roster at the end of the semester
   who has not been present for the tests will receive an F.  It is your
   responsibility to obtain from other students any material or assignments
   you miss when absent.  If you miss any examinations, including the due
   date for take home exams, and you return within the period when a makeup
   is allowed, you must be prepared to take the test, or hand in any
   materials, promptly at the beginning of the class on the day you return.

   Holidays this semester are Veteran's Day, November 12; and Thanksgiving
   November 22-23.  The last day of classes is December 13.

   Note well:  Anyone who persistently disrupts my class by talking,
   arriving late, repeatedly leaving & returning, or through any other
   distracting or inconsiderate behavior may be instructed to leave the
   class. If you do not want to be here, don't come in the first place.

OFFICE HOURS:  My office hours are MW 7:30-8:00 & 11:10-11:45 AM,
   TuWTh 6:30-6:45 PM, and by appointment in CC 224.  The phone number is
   (818) 947-2467.  This is a direct line, and no one else will answer
   the phone.  You should call during office hours.  If you call at
   other times, you can leave messages on voicemail.  You do not need to
   report absences, or your reasons for them, by voicemail.  Do not leave
   messages for me to call you, without the times you can be reached at
   your number.  I will not return calls if all you want is to be brought
   up to date for classes you have missed.  Just return to class.  Any
   inquiries by e-mail can be answered within a couple of days:
   DrKelley@AOL.com.  Identify the class in the subject line of the

TESTS:  There will be one midterm exam, two quizzes, and a final.  The
   quizzes will be multiple choice, but the other exams will include
   multiple choice, short answer identifications, and essay questions.  The
   midterm will be a take-home test, with a brief multiple choice part
   taken in class.  The final exam will include a take-home essay, but the
   in-class part will include another essay and the other kinds of
   questions.  It will be comprehensive.  If you miss the final and cannot
   take it at another time I have scheduled, you cannot make it up during
   the current semester and will be credited with an F unless you request
   an Incomplete--which you may do simply by leaving a message for me
   before I turn in the grades.

   Point values are assigned to grades as follows:  F=0, D=3, C=6, B=9,
   A=12.  Minuses subtract one point, and pluses add one.  A C+ is thus
   worth 7.  The midterm grade is worth 1/4 of the course grade, the
   quizzes 1/8 each, and the final 1/2.  The course grade is therefore
   calculated in this way:  {[2x(Midterm) + (Quiz I + Quiz II) +
   4x(Final)]/8}.  Missed tests or quizzes will count as F's unless made up.
   For the purpose of the following rule, the grades of the two quizzes
   will be combined.  If that grade or the midterm grade (or an F for a
   missed midterm) will be dropped if the grade is improved by the
   substitution of the grade of the final with the penalty of one letter
   grade (subtracting 3 points).  For instance, an A+ (13) on the final
   means that a midterm grade, or a combined quiz grade, lower than a B+
   (10) is replaced with a B+.  If the course grade is as much as 10 (B+),
   without rounding, an A will be awarded.  If a 7 (C+), a B; a 4 (D+), a
   C; and a 1 (F+), a D.

   In all the work you do in my classes, you are not expected to agree with
   me on any issue; but you are expected to know what has been presented in
   the course, both in the lectures and in the books, and to present
   reasons or arguments for any views you wish to advocate.  Outside
   materials or opinions are welcome so long as they are not a substitute
   for awareness or discussion of the materials of the course.

   You are expected to do your own work, so do not prepare common essays
   with your study partners.  On a test, if I read an essay that I have
   already read, I will grade it down, regardless of how the original
   essay may be have been graded.  Also, you may quote from my handouts in
   essays, but it is not acceptable to write an essay that reproduces the
   handouts verbatim, especially when it is without attribution.  I reserve
   the right to exclude or fail anyone who turns in work that they have not
   done themselves, who plagiarizes, or who cheats in any other way.

WARNING:  During the semester, one moral problem that I am particularly
   interested in addressing is the moral basis of capitalism and the free
   market.  Despite the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989-91 and
   the looming financial and other problems of European socialism, the
   Canadian health care system, and American social welfare programs like
   Social Security and Medicare, socialistic criticisms of capitalism and
   the free market nevertheless are often credulously repeated, indeed
   assumed, in academic or political discussions, and the moral case for
   capitalism is rarely stated:  one might think that a moral case for
   capitalism is a contradiction in terms.   This is not the case, as we
   shall see.  Two of the books for this class, by Thomas Sowell, are
   about the economic progress of ethnic groups, both in the United States
   and internationally, and about the moral and political issues that
   arise concerning this.

Return to Index