Links below give a more detailed description of specific courses.

PHI 201 Moral Philosophy

Course description: You know/feel what is right and wrong, but how do you know and feel it? Why do you hold the opinions you do on moral issues? This course seeks to make you aware of how you make moral decisions, and how other people and other cultures make those same decisions. In the process, you will become aware of how people in a variety of times and cultures have defined “good” / “evil,” “right”/”wrong,” “ethical”/ “unethical.” You will also have the opportunity to hear how others in the class think about morality, and what positions they hold on a number of ethical issues. Perhaps you will reinforce your ethical stance, gain a different perspective or some additional conceptual tools along the way. We begin the course with an examination of the ethics of bullshit. We will then explore Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian ethical thought, the Western traditions of virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism, relativism, and feminist moral philosophy, and Islamic ethical philosophy. We may add or subtract particular schools of thought based on class discussion and interest.

Course Format: This is a discussion based class. Most of the learning in this course will occur in small and large group discussions. The amount of time spent in groups and lecture will vary throughout the course. My personal goal is to avoid lecturing more than 25 consecutive minutes in any given class. Sometimes, this may seem too short, but I find most of the learning in this course takes place in the back and forth of class discussions, large and small. Often, we will begin a class with an “open ethical discussion.” This will be topical, and a chance for you to express your view and hear the opinions of others. It will also help you to increase your ability to think reflectively. Take the discussions seriously, it is a major part of the course. Think of participation in this course as equivalent to quizzes in traditional courses.

Course Texts: No texts to buy, I will give you handouts for every theory we look at with some comments of mine and a short excerpt from a primary source. I expect you to read each handout and struggle with it, not necessarily to understand it. If in a discussion I can see you have tried to understand a reading but failed, you have done the task I have assigned. You fail only if I determine you have not read the handout or tried to understand it. I encourage you to use on line resources on topics that interest you as well as library resources.

Course Requirements: How you will be graded in this course will be largely up to you. There are some non negotiable items that are listed in the next section. However, most of what you do in this course will be your choice. I have listed below a variety of things you could do, but do not think you are limited by my list- be creative! Choose from my list or create options of your own. I want you to submit a learning contract within three weeks. This contract can be modified later in the course.

Basic guidelines:

  • Do tasks and topics you find interesting. If it's boring- change it.
  • You know your abilities, adapt the course to fit them.
  • Plan to revise your contract during the course.
  • Due dates:
    • Project 1: xx/xx/xx
    • Project 2: xx/xx/xx
    • Project 3: xx/xx/xx (last day of class).

Here is my list of possible graded activities:

  1. reaction papers: a 3 page paper reacting to something that occurred in class. Perhaps a theory we discussed or something that was said during the discussion. Your personal thoughts, mentioning any relevant theories we have discussed. If you choose to do reaction papers as a project, plan on doing 3.
  2. community service: an out of class experience that has an ethical aspect to it, e.g., some kind of volunteer service or assistance to people, animals in need. This service would be documented by the organization you work for. Too I would like about a 2 page summary of the experience when it is completed.
  3. mid term exam: objective or essay
  4. final exam: take home essay
  5. video project: interview format, dramatic production, animation, etc. on an ethical topic.
  6. research paper: 10 pages or more, explore a position, a person, an idea beyond what we explore in class. You should discuss this with me in advance of doing the paper.
  7. literature/media ethical analysis: explore the ethical positions taken and ethical implications of a piece of literature: The Fall, The Plague, Grapes of Wrath, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Crime and Punishment, movie: Changing Lanes, L’efant Savage, The Seventh Seal, Sophie’s Choice, Vanilla Sky, Easy Rider, John Q, Frailty, Inconvenient Truth, Crash, Brothers, television show: a reality TV (e.g., Teen Mom) program,, CSI, Rescue Me, Sopranos, the Shield, Madmen, a news program, music/video: Offspring, “Hit That,” John Lennon's, "Imagine,” Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash “Hurt.” Green Day, “American Idiot,” Pink, “Stupid Girl,” Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows,” “Democracy,” Eminem, “I Love the way you Lie,” Travis McCoy, “I want to be a Billionaire.” These titles are examples only feel free to choose any book/movie/ t v show that can be analyzed for its ethical implications. Be specific and thorough. 8 pages or more.
  8. class presentation: This might be a presentation you do alone, but it could also be a panel discussion or debate with another person or another team. I highly recommend this option, it makes the class more interesting and is a nice way to hear what other people think of your ideas. A presentation can range from 15 to 35 minutes.
  9. journal: write at least 15 entries of 1 typed page minimum in which you think about ethics and your daily experience. This can include interaction with family, friends, work as well as current events. 15 days during the semester, not necessarily sequential.
  10. personal position paper: this is a paper to be submitted towards the end of the course. In this paper you will give a thorough explanation of your own ethical perspective. This explanation will include a discussion of why you reject or modify other positions. Also, you should apply your position to one or two specific situations. 6-8 pages.
  11. ethical experience paper: think about a decision you have made, an action of yours or someone you know. What were the ethics involved? Analyze the experience. 4 pages or more.
  12. write a letter to the editor of the local paper or contribute to one or more blogs on an ethical topic and monitor the responses. Submit your contribution and copies of responses and include a personal reaction .

Nonnegotiable course requirements:

  1. Class participation: Since this is a discussion based course, you need to participate. Participation can take several forms.
    1. large group discussion and response to lecture questions
    2. small group interaction
    3. personal communication. E mail me, talk to me- all our interaction counts.
    4. Internet discussion on facebook. This is voluntary, if enough of you choose this, we can hold a semseter long series of conversations. Join the McKimmy Moral Philosophy page.
  2. Class attendance: Your being here for class discussions is essential, so attendance counts. It is so important, I am willing to reward and punish. Miss less than 2 classes and I will award you ½ a grade (B to B+). Miss 4 or more classes and I will subtract ½ grade (B to B-)
    1. of course, signing in and leaving before the end of class does not count as being here.
    2. of course, claiming illness as a reason for missing several classes without documentation is not acceptable.
    3. settle any questions about attendance before the end of the semester.
  3.  Small group presentations:
    1. Presentation 1: (first half of the semester) Your small group will select a case study to present to the class your group will discuss it , present an ethical response and explain why you are taking that position.
    2. Presentation 2: (second half of the semester) Your small group will be responsible for researching an ethical topic, presenting that Topic to the class and taking a position you will defend. You are free to choose any topic that interests you, here are a few possibilities:    
      1. Business ethics: worker’s rights, minimum wage, truth in advertising, corporate responsibility
      2. Animal Rights: do animals have rights? what should be choice and what should be legislated?
      3. Life and Death: is abortion morally justified? should we have a choice about when and how we die? Is suicide ever justified? When is it ever right to kill another person? Should health care be rationed? Is health care a right?
      4. Terrorism: what limitations should we accept on our right to privacy in order to defend ourselves? what rights do terror suspects have? is torture ever an ethical option? do we have an obligation to consider why terrorist groups are attacking us?
      5. Forgiveness: what does it mean to forgive? are there any circumstances under which forgiveness is obligatory?
      6. Politics and Ethics: What role should opinion polls play in making policy decisions? Is one political theory of greater ethical value than others?
      7. Drugs and Ethics: should we legalize all drugs, marijuana only? None? Is is ethical to use drugs recreationally?
      8. God and Ethics: if there is a good God, why so much evil? which version of religious deontology is reliable and why?
      9. Sex and Ethics: if you have an affair, should you confess to your partner? should you abstain from sex until you are married? what about gay marriage? Race and Ethics: should we continue affirmative action programs? should the government pay reparations to descendants of former slaves, or African Americans as a whole? is racial profiling ever justified?
      10. Technology and Ethics:

Ground Rules: since this is a discussion based class:

  1. Show respect. Every view is to be tolerated. Humor is great, but no insults.
  2. No interrupting. In large group discussions one person talks at a time.
  3. I determine when ground rules are not being followed.

Some suggestions:

  1. Whatever writing you are doing, I will regard your submission a sample draft and I can let you know if it is meeting the course’s expectations and give you a grade. If the grade is lower than you wish, you can resubmit it with responses to my observations. Complete rewriting unnecessary, this course focuses on your thinking, not writing.
  2. Take risks. This is a course about thinking and reflecting on your own thinking.
  3. Everything you turn in should show you are taking the course.
  4. Always keep the levels of reflection in mind.
  5. Do not expect to understand everything that you read or hear in this course. I will let you know what level of comprehension is necessary to succeed in this course as we go along.


Broome Community College is located in Central New York State near Binghamton and part of the SUNY system.