SYLLABUS - SYLLABUS Life and Death Decisions Professor:...

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Unformatted text preview: SYLLABUS Life and Death Decisions Professor: Sheldon Ekland-Olson Offices: BUR 556 Welcome to class. Here is the question before us: How do we collectively go about justifying actions universally thought to be wrong? All human societies have moral frameworks. These frameworks are embedded in both religion and law. There is very little, if any, disagreement on this. Within these frameworks are moral imperatives. Moral imperatives compel us, as moral beings, to certain lines of action. Many have asked whether, across all moral systems, there are common imperatives. If present, they would apply to the human condition and community across time, place, and life circumstances. No exceptions. There is far more disagreement on this question. Two imperatives will occupy our attention: 1) Life is sacred and should be protected. 2) Suffering, once detected, should be alleviated. We will explore many circumstances when these, perhaps universal moral imperatives, are violated and most importantly how we go about justifying the violation. Three mechanisms leading to justification of violations will be explored. 1) Resolution of moral dilemmas 2) A logic of exclusion 3) Diluted empathy Obviously, these issues involve emotion- and value-laden questions. You will not be evaluated on the specific positions you take, but on how carefully you construct your argument and how well you address positions other than your own. We are striving to improve how, not what, you think. The exams will, however, contain items to ensure you have read and thought about the materials assigned. The class is organized as follows: I. Initial positions and grounding ideas II. A Troubling Logic of Exclusion III. An Evolving Moral Framework IV. The Abortion Wars V. Are Some Lives Worth More Than Others? VI. Is There a Right to Die? VII. Capital Punishment and War If there is an overall goal of the class, it is to identify common threads that run through all the issues addressed. Not easy, but interesting. COURSE DOCUMENTS: No formal text. Course materials will be posted on Black Board CLICKERS: Extensive use will be made of what have come to be called clickers. These will be used to assess the overall opinion of the class, before and after our discussions. They will be used to see if you have grasped the major points of this or that legal case or assigned reading. They will be used at the beginning of class to see how your weekend was. They will be used to see if you are in attendance. You should purchase your I-clicker before the second day of class. EVALUATION: There will be two exams during the semester as well as a final exam. In addition, there will be "Discussion Board" assignments. These assignments will be explained in class. Your involvement in these Discussion Board assignments will be a major portion of your class participation grade. Grade: 75% from exams (equally weighted), 25% from class participation (attendance and Discussion Board Assignments.) ATTENDANCE: Attendance is considered very important for the success of this class. My belief is that much is learned in class and related discussions. We all know you can choose to skip class. If you decide to miss class, well, I will be disappointed in you. Unfortunately, my disappointment, though real, is not all there is. Your grade will suffer. If your schedule calls for you to miss more than four classes, you should probably drop the course. More than four absences will reduce your grade one full grade point (e.g., from an A to a B). Each subsequent absence will mean an additional grade point. I know this is nasty, but so am I. If you are a student with a disability affecting your exam performance, see: . Accommodations will be made. I look forward to a lively semester ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/23/2011 for the course UGS 303 taught by Professor Foster during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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