Philosophy 301, Topics in Ethical Theory

Ethics, Aesthetics, and Animals

T/Th 1:40-2:55, Maybank 206


Ned Hettinger                                                                                                 Office: 16 Glebe, Rm. 201

Fall 2011                                                                                                        Office Hrs: Wednesday 10-2

Office Phone: 953-5786                                                                                (Also, stop by my office or

Email:                                                                    make an appointment)


Course webpage:

Course Description

This course examines issues in the relationship between ethics and aesthetics and between ethics and animals. We will consider whether moral value can affect aesthetic value (e.g., Can evil things be beautiful?) and whether aesthetic value can influence (or perhaps trump) moral value (e.g., Might one sacrifice the interests of one’s family for the sake of aesthetic excellence?). Concerning ethics and animals, we will examine to what extent animals have moral significance. Questions here include: What sort of value is lost, if any, in the death/killing of an animal? Are animal lives replaceable? Is humanism a virtuous group loyalty or a prejudice? Are there differences in our obligations to wild and domesticated animals? Do we have duties to assist wild animals in danger?


Clare Palmer, Animal Ethics in Context (Columbia 2010)

Articles on class webpage

Requirements and Evaluation 


          Exam on ethics and aesthetics (10%), tentatively on Thursday, Sept 22

          Exam on ethics and animals (20%), Thursday, Dec 8, 12-3 (during final exams)

          Paper, proposal, literature review on topic in ethics and aesthetics (20%), 7-9 pages

                      Proposal and literature review due Friday, Sept 9th; paper due Friday, Sept 30th

          Paper, proposal, literature review on topic in ethics and animals (25%), 8-10 pages

                      Proposal and literature review due Monday, Nov 7; paper due Monday, Nov 21

          Two “critical questions” (10%) raising a question, objection, or issue from the reading for that day. These should be at most one or two short paragraphs in length. They are due at the beginning of class and should be emailed to the instructor by noon of the day the class is meeting. Please give copies to your classmates as well as to the instructor. You will sign up for two of these. Be prepared to speak to the class about your issue.

          Reading quizzes (10%): There will be unannounced quizzes on the reading for the day (approximately 10 for the semester). I do not give quiz makeups, but I give “free quizzes” that can be used to substitute for a missed quiz. Also, if you will be absent, you may email me a summary of the reading for that day before the class begins and this will count for the quiz should there be one.

          Attendance and participation (5%): Please do not miss class. Discussion in a philosophy class is incredibly important and you need to be part of that. Extremely poor attendance will lower your grade.