Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

HONR 301A: Moral Responsibility

Fall 2012

Moral Responsibility

 HONR 301A & PHIL 324 – Fall 2012


Instructor: Dr. Stefano Giacchetti

M/W 11.30-12.45 – Office hours M/W 2.20-3.20 (by appointment)

E-Mail:   stefano.giacchetti@tiscali.it





Short Description: This course will investigate some of the central questions of philosophy and moral theory: How should we, as human beings, live together? Are moral decisions the outcome of free choice or socially and naturally determined? What is the role of rationality in decision making? What are the social implications of moral evaluations?

Outcome Statement: Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the major philosophical questions in the area of moral philosophy with attention to the historical and conceptual development of these questions, and be able to articulate some of the major problems and responses central to this area of philosophy.



Students should be able to demonstrate

(a) understanding of the relationships among cultural, economic, political, and social forces, and their impact on human behavior.

(b) understanding of the processes and components of societies, states and cultures.
(c) understanding of the differences of class, gender and race in societies, states and cultures.

(d) awareness that human values and behavior, ideas of justice, and methods of interpretation are influenced by culture and time

(e) ability to differentiate among historical and contemporary perspectives about the world with a view to fashioning a humane and just world.


Students should also be able to demonstrate:

(a) understanding of the major philosophical questions in the area of moral philosophy with attention to the historical and conceptual development of these questions

(b) ability to articulate some of the major problems and responses central to this area of philosophy.



Students will learn to:

(a) recognize the way in which the basic principles governing how one ought to live are conditioned by one's involvement in and responsibilities toward the socially organized community in which one lives

(b) understand different positions on this issue, to appreciate the concerns that account for these differences, to look for the reasons given in support of the different views, and to assess the forcefulness of the challenge that each poses for the others and for our own culture.



This course enables the student to:

(a) appreciate the profound issues involved in social relations, such as dignity and diversity

(b) engage in dialogue with great philosophers, paying close attention to their meaning, their reasons, their concerns, their vision

(c) examine the way different philosophically defended views challenge each other and see how they also challenge unexamined presuppositions in our own culture

(d) include their own reflections into the dialogue

(e) recognize reasons supporting a view, identify unexamined presuppositions, appreciate astute insights, expose vulnerabilities in established positions.

(f) recognize the need for ethical judgment
(g) distinguish alternative courses of action.
(h) articulate the relevant ethical values, principles, rights, and virtues from the point of view of each stakeholder
(i) formulate and support an ethical judgment
(j) compare and contrast ethical theories and evaluate them in terms of strengths and weaknesses.




Full Course Description:

The course provides an overview of the theoretical background of moral philosophy. The first part of the course will cover the theory of Kant, and his innovative perspective regarding the role of rational decisions and categorical imperatives. In the second part of the course we will examine the ethical approach of Schopenhauer who, starting from a Kantian perspective, developed his original ethical system based on the suppression of the will. The third part of the class will examine Nietzsche’s critical approach to morality; his genealogical method and his radical criticism of rationality. The fourth part of the course will analyze Adorno’s critique of contemporary society as the premise for  re-establishing ethical and moral values based on autonomous judgment. In the final part of the class we will investigate contemporary issues in moral philosophy; from the concrete analysis of case studies we will focus on crucial topics such as cultural relativism, subjectivism, religious influence, egoism and utilitarianism. 

The aim of the course is to lead students to autonomously judge fundamental issues related to ethical decision making, with special reference to justice, fairness, adherence to norms and civil disobedience, rules and duties, cultural and social influences. This will provide students with the basic critical skills for recognizing different ethical approaches and for judging their feasibility and correctness. The analysis of the philosophies which most consistently influenced the development of ethical and moral theories will be the tool for understanding moral dilemmas and constructing ethically informed decisions.


Required Readings:

-          Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Moral.

-          Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation. Vol.I

-          Nietzsche’s On the genealogy of morals.

-          Adorno’s Problems of Moral Philosophy.

-          Rachel’s The Elements of Moral Philosophy.



Course Requirements:

Student’s final grade will be based on:

-          One in-class test (Midterm): 40% of the final grade.

-          One take-home paper (Final): 40% of the final grade.

-          In-class presentation and participation: 20% of the final grade. Students will be requested to make a presentation (15-20 min.) and submit a short paper for one of the scheduled readings assigned.



Grading Policy:

The following grading scale will be applied for determining the final grade:

Presentation: A=20; A-=19; B+=18; B=17; B-=16; C+=15; C=14; C-=13; D+=12; D=11; F=10

Midterm and Final (each): A=40; A-=37; B+=36; B=34; B-=33; C+=32; C=30; C-=29; D+=27; D=26; F=24

Final Grade: A = 95-100; A- = 92-94; B+ = 88-91; B = 84-87; B- = 80-83; C+ = 77-79; C = 73-76; C- = 70-72; D+ = 65-69; D = 60-64; F = 59 and below


Attendance Policy:

Students should plan to regularly attend the class, since we will often broaden the topics contained in the texts to contemporary issues, and since this class is mainly intended to the rousing of students’ personal thoughts and ideas.


Statement on Plagiarism: Plagiarism on the part of a student in academic work or dishonest examination behavior will result minimally in the instructor assigning the grade of "F" for the assignment or examination. In addition, all instances of academic dishonesty must be reported to the chairperson of the department involved. The chairperson may constitute a hearing board to consider the imposition of sanctions in addition to those imposed by the instructor, including a recommendation of expulsion, depending upon the seriousness of the misconduct.


Special Needs: Any student needing a special accommodation in this course due to a documented disability is asked to bring this to the attention of the instructor at the beginning of the semester so that needs can be appropriately addressed.



Course Schedule:

Week 1 to week 3: Kant

Week 4 to week 6: Schopenhauer

Week 7 to week 9: Nietzsche

Week 10 to week 12: Adorno

Week 13 to week 14: Rachel