Phil 140

Contemporary Moral Issues

Prof. Ruth E. Kastner 



 Office hours: after class, by appointment, and on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

AIM screen name: ruthkastner

By far the best way to reach me is by email.


 Winston & Edelbach: Society, Ethics and Technology, 4th ed., ISBN: 049550467X

A. Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, 4th ed., ISBN: 0872209547

 IMPORTANT: In courtesy to your fellow students who are entitled to an undisrupted learning environment, no cell phones or other personal electronic devices of any kind (Blackberries, Ipods, laptops, etc..) are allowed to be used in this class. Please make sure all auditory signals (beepers, ringtones, etc.) are turned OFF.  If you choose to leave the room to answer a phone call, do not come back in. Students seen texting or otherwise engaged with electronic devices will be considered in violation of these etiquette standards and will receive no credit for assignments for that day.

Grading information:


Daily journal 25%

Midterm exam 25%

Term paper 20%

Group project 5%

Final exam 25%



Late Policy: Late assignments are not accepted unless prior arrangements have been made based on documented extenuating circumstances (e.g., death in the family, serious illness.)


General Policies:


(1) The University announces closings and delays at the campus website
       ( and snow phone line (301-405-SNOW).
(2) In the unlikely event that an exam or class session is canceled due to unforeseen circumstances, you will be notified as soon as possible by email. Therefore, please send me an email, preferably with an emergency phone number as well, as soon as possible.



Assignment Descriptions


Daily journal:  This is a compilation of journal homework assignments and in-class follow-up journal entries. Prior to coming to each class, you will read assigned selection(s) and write a brief preliminary response (1-2 short paragraphs) to an assigned question, based on what you have read. You will make one copy to be turned in at the beginning of each class, and keep one copy for your reference to use during the discussion. At the end of each class there will be some time allowed for a follow-up journal entry on the same question. In this in-class writing opportunity, you will reflect again on the reading and indicate how your initial views may have changed or been reinforced in light of our in-class discussion. These are handed in at the end of the class and, together with the homework for that day, are graded Pass/Fail, where Pass (P)  is equivalent to at least a C-level effort. Each P is worth 1 percentage point. You cannot earn a P on the in-class journal followup entry without having handed in the homework for that day.


Essay  for September 10: I will be out of town at a conference on this date, but please attend class to view the first half of the movie “The Island,” which addresses some of the ethical issues surrounding cloning. Based on what you saw, you will write a short (500-word) reflective essay, due at the next class session. You are of course welcome to stay and watch the entire film (total run time 2 hours, 16 min.) if you wish, or to watch the remainder on your own, which is recommended. Specific guidelines for the essay are found below. Worth 5 points.


Term paper: Choose one of the assigned text selections and provide your critical assessment of the author’s views together with your own views, supported by suitable outside research. Minimum of 2 scholarly outside references (not Wikipedia or blog). Minimum length: 1000 words.


The paper should be primarily in your own words (no more than 10% quoted material). All source material must be properly quoted and cited to avoid plagiarism.  This means it must have quotation marks around it, be preceded by an introduction in the body of the text, be followed by an in-text citation, and have a complete reference at the end. Please make sure to educate yourself concerning plagiarism; it is not tolerated in this course. Plagiarism on any assignment will result in a zero on that assignment; a second incidence will be reported as academic dishonesty. Papers will be submitted electronically through, a plagiarism prevention site.



Schedule and reading assignments:


Abbreviations: WE = Winston & Edelbach, Society, Ethics and Technology;

 AW =  A. Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments





Reading Assignment (due for that date)

Other assignments





(First day of class)



AW, Introduction and Chapter 1



WE Introduction 1-25, AW Chapter 2



AW Chapters 3 and 4

“The Island


AW Chapter 5, WE Essay 1.1.2 (38-54)



AW Chapter 6, WE Essay 1.1.4 (66-74



AW Chapter 7, WE Essay 1.2.1  (75-82)



AW Chapter 8, WE Essay 1.2.2 (83-89)



AW Chapter 9, WE Essay 1.2.3 (90-101)






AW Appendix 1, WE Essay 1.2.4 (102-112)



AW Appendix 2, WE Essay 1.3.1  (113-120)



WE Essay 1.3.2 (121-132)



WE Essay 2.1.2 (161-173)



WE Essay 2.1.3 (174-181)



Midterm Exam

Midterm Exam


WE Essay 2.1.4 (182-195)



Daniel Quinn essay 1: “Wealth”



WE Essay 2.2.3 (222-235)






WE Essay 2.3.1 (249-262)



WE Essay 2.3.2 (263-283)



WE Essay 2.3.3 (285-301)



WE Essay 2.3.4 (301-310)



Daniel Quinn Essay 2: “Technology and the other war”



WE Essays 2.4.1 and 2.4.2 (310-329)



WE Essay 2.4.4 (340-352)



Thanksgiving Holiday






WE Essay 2.5.1 (352-362)



Daniel Quinn Reserved Reading: The Story of B, pp. 287-306

Term Paper due


WE Essay 2.5.2






Final Exam Week



D. Quinn Essay links:


Essay: “The Island

 Address at least 2 of the following questions in your essay:

1. What ethical issue(s) concerning cloning are highlighted in the story? 

2.  In what way is deception used in the story? Is deception necessarily immoral or is it the specific context of the story that makes it seem immoral?

3. Are the motives of the doctors/businessmen (e.g., Dr. Merrick) necessarily immoral? 

4. Are the motives of the “clients” (e.g., Tom Lincoln) necessarily immoral?

5.  Do you see a “slippery slope” argument presented anywhere in the story? Explain