Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Classes

JMS:Ethics,Justice, &Social - 48145 - HEDU 499 - 05


Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 43875 - HPHI 302G - 01
Associated Term: Spring 2020

SYLLABUS AND NOTES

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class10:00 am - 10:50 amMWFSale Hall 105Jan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Intro to Philosophical Eth - 43876 - HPHI 302G - 02
Associated Term: Spring 2020

SYLLABUS AND NOTES

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class11:00 am - 11:50 amMWFSale Hall 105Jan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Intro to Phil. Ethics ONLINE - 48562 - HPHI 302G - 07
Syllabus draft. 
Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
ClassTBAONLINEJan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail
Modern Political Theory - 48401 - HPHI 462 - 1
Syllabus draft
Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class1:00 pm - 1:50 pmMWFSale Hall 110Jan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Monday, January 13, 2020

Writing Resources

Here are some of my posts and writings on better writing:
Here is a new, imperfect video on writing philosophy with an emphasis on organization and structure; I'm new to making videos and this is really a first attempt:


Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Thinking About Ethics

Thinking About Ethics

1/9/2020 draft

Nathan Nobis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, www.NathanNobis.com

I’m a philosopher who teaches and writes mostly about ethics. Here I want to say a little about what philosophical ethicists do, how they do it and why they do it.

Ethicists try to discover which particular actions, and actions in general, are wrong, which are not wrong and what we are morally obligated to do, what makes people better and worse or virtuous and vicious, and what makes organizations and societies fair and unfair, just and unjust, and much more. The concerns are both abstract and highly practical, since they concern how we should live, as individuals and as communities.

How do we “do” ethics though? How do we try to engage ethics more productively, especially since clearly there are often deep and passionate disagreements about the issues? Here I want to offer some brief observations about what ethical thinking is and how we can all do it better.

First, ethics is not about “opinions” or “feelings”: it’s about reasons. Consider the near-daily moral tragedies of our world: we may, and should, have strong feelings about the many innocent victims of wrongdoing, but it’s not our mere “feeling” or “opinion” that what’s done is wrong: we have reasons. We can say why we think an action is wrong or not wrong, and we can learn to better figure out whether the reasons we give are good ones or not and why. We can learn to better think about complex and controversial ethical issues, often by developing skills and understanding from thinking about less complex and less controversial ethical topics. This happens in, among other places and spaces, philosophical ethics courses.

Second, ethics is often seen as intertwined with religion, but it doesn’t have to be and, arguably, it shouldn’t. Ethics is independent of religion, again, because we can reason about it. Socrates observed thousands of years ago that if anyone says some action is wrong because, say, they think God disapproves of the action, we can always ask why God would find the action wrong: we can always do better than “it’s wrong just because God says so!” Anyone and everyone can think about whether and why a God would or would not approve of some action, whatever their religious beliefs are (or not are), and debate various answers. Ethical thinking isn’t confined to any religious outlook since we can always ask why we should accept what some religious text, tradition or figure says and evaluate the answers. The possibility of inter- and intra-faith ethical dialogue is important since ethics affects us all and so we don’t want anything to be seen as an obstacle to productive ethical discussion when it really is not.

Third, ethical thinking requires an understanding of the facts of the issue under consideration. For examples, issues in medical ethics depend on understanding the relevant medical facts; engaging ethical and justice-related issues brought on by climate change, and other issues in environmental ethics, requires knowledge of the best scientific understanding of the causes and likely impact of climate change; addressing social justice involves knowing history and the political, economic and religious forces that have shaped people and peoples. Ethical literacy is thereby dependent on scientific literacy and other types of knowledge. Sometimes it’s easy to find the relevant facts; other times it takes some time and effort, but we all need to be willing to put in that effort. Those who don’t, or won’t, often wind up believing what they merely wish to be true, not what is true, which tends to contribute to ethical disaster.

Fourth, ethical thinking requires reasoning, which is the application of logic, or the rules of good reasoning, to complex issues. Logic is, ultimately, based in math, and so whether various given reasons “add up” to support a given conclusion or point of view on an issue is an objective fact to be discovered, not created. That ethical reasoning is based on logic contributes to the possibility of people productively engaging ethical issues from a range of perspectives, as long as they are willing to give reasons and attempt to carefully explain why they think their reasons support their conclusion. At the very least, we can use basic logic to show that many common arguments on important issues are unsound, and knowing what not to think about an issue is a step towards finding good arguments on that issue.

Fifth, and finally, ethics is best when done from a set of virtues or good character traits: what these are is an ethical issue in itself. One of the most important virtues is humility. We all know that other people have had mistaken views and incomplete, if not erroneous, understandings of issues. But the same is true of ourselves. Being open to the possibility that we are mistaken, and that we personally need to make some changes in thought, feeling and deed, is essential to genuine ethical thinking. Another virtue is understanding: we often criticize and judge others’ ethical views without really understanding them. We have an inaccurate sense of what others think, and why they think that, which does not contribute to positive discussion and debate. Ethics thus involves a lot of listening and learning from other people: while we may (and should!) have objections, we always want to make sure the objection addresses the other person’s real views, not inaccurate caricatures.

And we can improve our understanding of ethics by reading and engaging writings in ethics, written by ethicists. Although we are all constantly engaging ethical issues, few people have taken a philosophical ethics course, much less teach such courses or publish books and articles about the issues, and a lot can be learned from people who have trained experience in these areas. One great source for introductory readings in ethics is 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology, an open-access educational resource that I help edit. And I hope my co-authored open-access Thinking Critically About Abortion book demonstrates some of the skills and virtues I review above while addressing an obviously controversial and important topic.

Why do ethics, and do it better? Because we must. Righting the wrongs of the world is a complex challenge, and our efforts will always be guided by what we think. Philosophical ethics helps us improve that thinking so we might improve the world, for all who are in it.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ethics, Justice and Social Justice

JMS:Ethics,Justice, &Social - 48145 - HEDU 499 - 05
Ethics, Justice and Social Justice – Dr. Nathan Nobis –

SYLLABUS AND NOTES HERE

This course introduces students to the logical and philosophical skills used to evaluate arguments concerning matters of ethics, justice and social justice: what should we believe, and what should we do, about these sorts of issues? When there is a complex and controversial question of ethics or justice, how do decide which position(s) are more likely to be correct?

Our initial concerns are abstract: first, how do we define our area of concern, so what makes something an ethical issue, an issue of justice, or an issue of social justice? Next, what are some of the better ways to determine whether an action or policy is ethical or not, whether some practice is just or Ian injustice, and when is something done a social injustice, and what are we seeking when we are seeking (social) justice? In general, how do we think critically about answers to ethical and justice-related questions?

Our focus, however, will involve applying general insights from theories and principles of ethics and justice, and critical thinking, to contemporary issues of social justice, such as the criminalization of drug use, punishment and the death penalty, reparations for historical injustice, police violence, gun violence, abortion, immigration, racism, discrimination against people who are not heterosexual or cis-gendered, health inequality, wealth inequality, many forms of racial discrimination and prejudice, climate change and more. Topics will be chosen, in part by students’ interests.

Guest speakers from some local organizations that address some of these ethical challenges will come to class to share how and why they seek justice through their efforts. Note that J-Mester courses are free elective courses. It is advised that students engage Advisors prior to enrolling to determine if credit from these courses can be applied to their specific major or can fulfill general education requirements.

Associated Term: Spring 2020
Registration Dates: Nov 03, 2019 to Jan 03, 2020
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class9:00 am - 5:00 pmMTWRFLeadership 244Jan 03, 2020 - Jan 13, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Critical Thinking concepts

I did a quick informal survey of philosophy instructors to see what "critical thinking" concepts they thought were most important or "fallacies" (in short, bad ways of thinking!) they thought are most common or most important that people be familiar with. Here's that list, with some vague ranking, and a quick explanation of what this error in thinking is:

  • "begging the question" - this is to assume what you are trying to argue for: your reason for your conclusion is a claim that someone would accept only if they already accept your conclusion. This is a type of circular reasoning. (Here are some question-begging arguments on abortion, for examples). 
  • "straw person" AKA "straw man" - to "straw person" a position is to present it in a weak form; it's to not present the strongest, most plausible version of the position or view in question.
  • "principle of charity" or "failing to employ the principle of charity" - this is to not attempt to interpret someone's claim(s) in the most plausible ways they can be understood, to not try to help someone clarify their ideas (when they can be clarified), to not help someone state the strongest version of their position that they can: this is all being uncharitable. 
  • NEW: "Badlighting." (New, a term developed by Molly Gardner). Badlighting is what you do when you attribute bad motives to someone who actually has good motives. It's a bad and/or abusive behavior, just like "grandstanding" and "gaslighting." Badlighters tend to interpret the words and actions of their targets through the lense of "the principle of hostility," which is the opposite of what's known in philosophy as "the principle of charity." Some, but not all, badlighters are engaging in projection: They have bad motives, themselves, and so they wrongly assume that their interlocutors also have bad motives.
  • "ad hominem" - this is to respond to some argument or reasoning with an irrelevant personal attack on the person making the argument, instead of engaging with the argument. 
  • "genetic fallacy" - this is to respond to some argument or reasoning with something irrelevant about the source of the argument (its genesis), instead of engaging with the argument itself.
    • A related popular version of the genetic fallacy is something of a combination of it and maybe an ad hominem, where someone's position is rejected or objected to not on the basis of the position or the arguments given but the identity of the person who gives it: so, instead of discussing the argument, it's observed that someone of this race and/or sex and/or class and/or political background is advocating the argument. This is usually irrelevant because that all has nothing to do with whether the premises are true or not and different people are often able to empathize with other people, even if they can't fully or perfectly understand someone else's experience or perspective
  •  the "Tu quoque" fallacy, or an objection from hypocrisy - this is to respond to someone's argument with the claim that they are somehow a hypocrite in making the argument: whether they are or not is irrelevant to whether the reasons they give are true claims that support their conclusion or not, or whether the argument is good or not.  
  • "slippery slope" - this is to claim that one thing will lead to something else that is problematic and that that's a reason to not accept the initial thing. This objection is problematic when it's doubtful that A will lead to B and/or it's doubtful that B is indeed bad, at least. (E.g., "Thinking that it's wrong to make fur coats puts us on a slippery slope to thinking that it's wrong to eat meat!" Yes, it should!)
  • "Red herring" - this is to make some distracting and irrelevant claims to throw people off from focusing on whatever issue they should be focusing on.
  • "Confirmation bias" - this is to only seek out and notice evidence that confirms your previously held point of view and ignore or reject anything contrary, for no good reason. A new related idea is that of an "epistemic bubble." 
  • "false dichotomy" - this is to see only two (or some limited number) of options, when there really are many. "We can do A or B, and that's it" when we really could do C, or D, or E, or F... 
  • "anecdotal fallacy" - "I saw this one time, or a few times, so it's probably always that way." Sometimes - often - limited experiences, anecdotes, don't justify believing any generalizations.
  • "Is/ought & the naturalistic fallacy" - "Things are this way, or have been this way, so they ought to be this way." "This is natural - it is this way - so it ought to be this way."
  • "legality and morality" - Assuming "this is legal, so it must be moral." No: morality and law are different. 
  • "fallacy of equivocation" - using a word one way, with one meaning, and then switching to a different meaning, resulting in reasoning where the premises don't really lead to the conclusion. 
  1. "reductio ad absurdum" : show that someone's position leads somewhere (absurdly) false, which might show that the position is false. (Very much related to the modus tollens argument pattern also). 
  2. Concerns about credible sources.
  3. evaluating moral explanations; inference to the best (moral) explanation
  4. finding counterexamples to general or universal premises and claims. VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT. 
  5. valid patterns: modus ponens and modus tollens and syllogisms
  6. invalid argument patterns: affirming the consequent, denying the antecedent
  7. the concepts of "validity" and "soundness" regarding arguments. VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT. 
  8. Isolating necessary/sufficient conditions 
  9. theoretical virtues (simplicity, coherence, power, etc.): intellectual virtues and vices


"Responding to Morally Flawed Historical Philosophers and Philosophies"

Cédric Eyssette created this graphic that presents my and Victor Fabian Abundez-Guerra's short 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology article "Responding to Morally Flawed Historical Philosophers and Philosophies." The text is in French, so I don't know what it says, but this seems pretty cool to me! Thanks, Cédric!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Spring 2020 classes

Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 43875 - HPHI 302G - 01
Associated Term: Spring 2020
Registration Dates: Nov 04, 2019 to Jan 24, 2020
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class10:00 am - 10:50 amMWFSale Hall 105Jan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 43876 - HPHI 302G - 02
Associated Term: Spring 2020
Registration Dates: Nov 04, 2019 to Jan 24, 2020
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class11:00 am - 11:50 amMWFSale Hall 105Jan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Intro to Phil. Ethics ONLINE - 48562 - HPHI 302G - 07
Associated Term: Spring 2020
Registration Dates: Nov 04, 2019 to Jan 24, 2020
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
Online Instructional Method
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
ClassTBA ONLINEJan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Modern Political Theory - 48401 - HPHI 462 - 1
Associated Term: Spring 2020
Registration Dates: Nov 04, 2019 to Jan 24, 2020
Levels: Undergraduate

Morehouse College Campus
Lecture Schedule Type
3.000 Credits
View Catalog Entry
Bookstore(change me)

Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class1:00 pm - 1:50 pmMWFSale Hall 110Jan 15, 2020 - May 08, 2020LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Monday, October 14, 2019

Midterm Self-Assessment

Here is a midterm reflection assignment, due by the Friday after the break (to Blackboard, using the template, in a word-processed file; include the questions below so it is obvious to the reader what you are responding to, please):
1. What is your Tigernet/Banner midterm grade?
2. What is your Blackboard midterm grade, your earned points or percentage of total points? (If there are any errors or omissions or misunderstandings in grading, please let the instructor know). 
3. How are you doing in this class? (Optional: how are you doing in other classes?)
4. What are you doing well? *Why* are you doing well at these things?
5. What are you not doing well at? *Why* are you not doing well at these things? What do you want to change? *Why* do you want to change?
6. What, if anything, should you change about what you do before class? What, if anything, should you change about what you do during class? What, if anything, should you change about what you do after class?
7. What can the instructor do to better help you?
8. What other thoughts and/or feelings do you have concerning your performance in this class (and any other classes), or anything else relevant?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues That Divide Us

 

Ethics, Left and Right

The Moral Issues That Divide Us

Bob Fischer

  • Provides a model of civil dialogue for contentious moral issues--one that students can appreciate and emulate--through a series of commissioned essays on twenty contentious debates, written expressly with undergraduate students in mind
  • Engages students in moral philosophy by examining highly relevant issues that students encounter in our current social and political landscape
  • Presents two position pieces on each issue--one left-leaning, one right--followed by a reply from each author, giving you and your students the opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions of serious issues
  • Prepares students to think philosophically and critically with an introductory chapter on ethical theory, moral reasoning, and arguments
  • Includes case studies at the end of every main contribution to encourage students to examine related problems and/or delve deeper into the current issue
  • An Ancillary Resource Center (ARC) contains an Instructor's Manual, a Computerized Test Bank, and PowerPoint lecture slides
  • A Companion Website offers student resources including self-quizzes and web links

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Fall Classes

Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 44370 - HPHI 302G - 01

Syllabus!

TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class10:00 am - 10:50 amMWFSale Hall 105Aug 21, 2019 - Dec 13, 2019LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Intro to Philosophical Ethics - 44371 - HPHI 302G - 02

Syllabus!
Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class11:00 am - 11:50 amMWFSale Hall 105Aug 21, 2019 - Dec 13, 2019LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Modern Philosophy - 46023 - HPHI 311 - 01
Syllabus!

TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class1:00 pm - 1:50 pmMWFSale Hall 110Aug 21, 2019 - Dec 13, 2019LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail

Special Top: Bioethics - 46241 - HPHI 475 - 01
Associated Term: Fall 2019
Registration Dates: Apr 01, 2019 to Aug 30, 2019
Levels: Undergraduate

Syllabus!
Scheduled Meeting Times
TypeTimeDaysWhereDate RangeSchedule TypeInstructors
Class9:00 am - 9:50 amMWFSale Hall 110Aug 21, 2019 - Dec 13, 2019LectureNathan M. Nobis (P)E-mail