Philosophy 310

Ethics, Law, & Social Policy                                                                                                              

Fall 2002

L. Purdy



Law is at one of the intersections of ethics and policy. As such, it can help us see how to reason about moral disagreements when societies must make policy decisions. This course aims to help you understand and think critically about legal reasoning, as well as about the broader, underlying issues of disagreement in democratic societies.



Cynthia Daniels, At Women=s Expense: State Power and the Politics of Fetal Rights (D)

David Kairys, With Liberty and Justice for Some: A Critique of the Conservative Supreme Court (K)

Julie Van Camp, Ethical Issues in the Courts (VC)


*copies on reserve

e: e-mailed items

wr: web resources handout



Class participation                                                   25%

Short paper                                                               20%

Major presentation                                                   25%

Long paper (based on presentation)                      30%



Readings & Topics:

9/3.      Introduction

9/10.   Resolving disagreement      *Gutman & Thompson, 1; *Young; K, Conclusion

9/17    Framing the Issues               K, Introduction, 1;VC, 113-18,166-68

9/24    Scope of the Law                  *Kipnis: Belle Terre, Devlin1, Devlin2, Feinberg, Conway

10/1    Free Speech                         K, 2; VC, 5; wr: Rust v. Sullivan

10/8    Democracy                            K, 3; e:campaign funding reform readings

10/15  October Break

10/22  Religion                                  K, 4; VC, 6; e:faith-based charities readings

10/29  no class

11/5    Due Process                         K, 7; e: PATRIOT act

11/12  Equality                                  K, 5; VC, pp.128-35; e: drug laws

11/19  Privacy                                   K, 6; VC, 1, also pp. 32-49; e: Safire (on HAS)

11/26  Johnson Controls                  D, 1,3

12/3    Carder case                          D, 2

12/10  Jennifer Johnson case         D, 4,5


1. Participation

2. Short paper

3. Presentation/Paper



Explanation of Requirements

Class participation

Participation is especially important in a course like this one that is mainly discussion; exploring different perspectives is one of the most effective learning devices and you don=t get all the benefit unless you join the fray. Quantity isn=t the point: a well chosen comment or argument every session or two is fine, if you aren=t the talkative type. It is important, however, to pursue your point, not just give in (. . . in ladylike fashion!): clarifying, finding additional support, etc., is an important part of discussion skills.


Elements of participation:

1. A lively interest in the class, as described above

2. Come to class prepared with at least a couple of points or issues to discuss


Short paper

I=ll assign a short (5-6pp.) paper, due 10/1.




Each of you will choose an issue related to one of our general topics; you will work in pairs, and present your material on the dates below. Below also are suggestions for topics, but I am open to your ideas. There is one Afree@ topic that we can choose, as a class. I=ll want you to sign up for these topics sometime in the 1st 2 weeks of the semester so you can get going on them.


10/8    Should political donations be regarded as speech? (Campaign finance reform)

10/22  Should public funding go to faith-based charities?

11/5    Are the anti-terrorist provisions of the PATRIOT act justified?

11/26  Women/fetuses in the workplace

12/3    Angela Carder case

12/10  Pregnant women & drugs


Each pair will work together to find information, evidence, and arguments about your topic. Each of you should be prepared to speak for about 20 minutes, leaving us about 35 minutes to discuss. Then each of you will write your own paper, arguing for the position you think is most defensible, taking full advantage of our discussion. Your paper will be due 1 week later. See (on my webpage) AWriting Handout,@ AVocabulary of Argumentation,@ and AMoral Reasoning in a Nutshell@ on my webpage ( as well as the other links listed under ATeaching Resources.@