PHIL209J     Philosophical Issues: The Rights and Wrongs of Killing People
Semester:Fall 2013
Instructor: Christopher Morris
Room:CHE 2110
Meeting Times:2:00pm - 2:50pm

In this class we shall raise some very simple, basic questions: Why is killing usually wrong? What makes it wrong? When is it permissible to kill? Is it ever permissible to kill an innocent human being intentionally? These are questions that have probably occurred to you at some time, in some form. What we shall do is think about them for an entire semester. We shall think about them abstractly, and we shall think about them more concretely, looking at particular controversies about killing (e.g., terrorism, suicide, abortion, war). All of the controversies we shall study concern killing and causing death to people and consequently will be connected. Thinking about one set of questions will usually have implications for the others, as well as for the more abstract questions above.

Our principal aim will be to answer some important and difficult questions. These questions are interesting, and it is expected that you will want to explore them. In the course of trying to do this, we shall not only think hard about the questions and different answers, but we shall also consider what it might mean to answer these questions (i.e., what does a genuine or acceptable answer have to look like?). In addition, in the course of thinking about these questions and attempting to answer them, we should expect our skills in thinking and reasoning to improve. Among these skills will be those involved in understanding a problem or controversy, present­ing and evaluating different sides of a debate, analyzing an argument, developing a position and defending it, and detecting nonsense.

Students will be asked to devote a great deal of effort to reflecting about the controversies that we shall be examining. The course does not presuppose a background in philosophy or critical reasoning. It does, however, presuppose a willingness to work hard and to think critically about some very difficult problems, and it will not be easy to do well without a considerable invest­ment of effort.