PHI 1700: Global Ethics





Strategies for Success

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The course schedule (below) is subject to change. Look out for updates via email!

1. January 30th   2. February 1st
Introduction to the course

Session 1 Slides

“All About Arguments”

Session 2 Slides

3. February 6th – NO LECTURE 4. February 8th
Read Session 3 Slides (+ supplemental slides) & take online quiz (before 11:59pm on Feb 7th)  for attendance credit Harman, “Ethics and Observation”

Session 4 Slides

February 13th   5. February 15th  
NO CLASS (Baruch closed for Lincoln’s Birthday) Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”

Session 5 Slides

February 19th is the last day to drop the course without any marks on your transcript.

February 20th   6. February 22st
NO CLASS (Baruch closed for Presidents Day) Smith, “A Theory of Moral Sentiments” (excerpt)

Bloom, “The Baby in the Well”

Session 6 Slides

7. February 27st 8. March 1st
Strawson, “The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility”

Churchland, “The Big Questions: Do We Have Free Will?

Session 7 Slides

Milgram, “The Perils of Obedience”

Session 8 Slides

**Download Take Home Exam #1**

9. March 6th     10. March 8th
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (excerpts)

Session 9 Slides

Annas, “Virtue Ethics and the Charge of Egoism”

Session 10 Slides


11. March 13th   12. March 15th
Hobbes, Leviathan (excerpt) & Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (excerpt)

Session 11 Slides

Held, “Non-Contractual Society: A Feminist View”

Session 12 Slides

13. March 20th   March 22nd
Nussbaum, “Capabilities and Human Rights”

Session 13 Slides

NO CLASS (Professor at a Conference) 
14. March 27th 15. March 29th
Mill, Utilitarianism (excerpts)

Nozick, “The Experience Machine”

Session 14 Slides

Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”

Session 15 Slides

**Download Take Home Exam #2**

16. April 3rd 17. April 5th
O’Neill, “A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics”

Session 16 Slides

Thomson, “Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem”

Session 17 Slides


April 10th April 12th


April 17th 18. April 19th 19. April 20th (CUNY Monday)



Young, Five Faces of Oppression (Part I)

Session 18 Slides

April 19th is the last day to withdraw from the course with a grade of ‘W’
(Official Withdrawal, no GPA penalty).

Young, Five Faces of Oppression (Part II)

Session 19 Slides

*DEBATE TOPICS BALLOT*: Complete by 11:59pm on Friday, April 21st. Debate teams assignments will be sent out on Saturday the 22nd.

**Download Take Home Exam #3**


20. April 24th 21. April 26th
Wolf, “Moral Saints”

Session 20 Slides


Applied Ethics Mini-Lecture on
Session 21 Slides

In-class Debate Prep with Teams

22. May 1st 23. May 3rd
In-class Debate Prep with Teams


DEBATE #1: Is abortion morally permissible?

Recommended reading:


24. May 8th 25. May 10th
DEBATE #2: Would it be moral for United States to institute a maximum wage on the super-wealthy to facilitate wealth distribution?

Recommended reading:

DEBATE #3: Should people be allowed to end their lives through euthanasia (assisted suicide)?

Recommended reading:

26. May 15th 27. May 17th
DEBATE #4: Is it morally acceptable for parents to choose their children’s traits via genetic engineering?

Recommended reading:

DEBATE #5: Is capital punishment (the death penalty) morally permissible?

Recommended reading:

May 22nd, 11:59pm May 24th, 11:59pm

435 thoughts on “PHI 1700: Global Ethics

  1. Free will is something everybody wishes they could have or enjoys when they do have it. Free will is the ability to make decisions and expressions based on ones free flowing consciousness. Some people debate whether or not people have free will or not, one reason being that certain health factors such as brain tumors can have substantial effects on the way a person thinks. I believe free will is something people have when their bodies are completely healthy and the person is not inhibited by anyone or anything. An example of somebody with free will would be someone without responsibilities, in good health condition who has nothing to fear or worry about. When these factors are come into play together they allow for someone to express themselves freely and their thoughts are not changed or altered by any outside factors.

  2. Five faces of oppression cont.
    I feel like if we were to stand up for what we believe individually, things would be different. Since people are scared to not be apart of something because of not wanting to be alone, it makes people empower and support some actions that are not correct. Oppression definitely ties into stereotyping and racism if not amps it up. Again, sometimes its good to be alone, even though it may not feel right it is the correct thing to do. Even if people crave the idea of wanting to be apart of something, it takes times and one should consider every aspect of the so called group, they wish to join. A good example would be bullies. Some bullies are not really bullies and even though most of the time, they are not the ones doing the bullying, they can’t help but watch or feel the need to laugh because if not, they get picked on for not being cool. Again, things like this surprisingly starts from a very young age, and continues on if one doesn’t learn right from wrong.

  3. The trolley problem and letting someone die was a very difficult concept for me to grab. And despite me still being in awe, I feel like it was the best class because it made me really think. Is it better to kill one person and save five people or kill five people and save one person. I personally don’t see either situation being any better. You’re letting someone die at the end of the day and if I was put in a position to choose either or, I really think I might loose my mind. I grew up with a mentality that I don’t wish to do harm to no one because I wouldn’t want it to be done with me so sacrificing a life or more is not and will not be easy for me to even take in. You can put any people in that position, let’s say the 6 people are family members or friends, it does not make it any better and if its strangers even worse because they mean something to someone and just thinking about the other person or people who will suffer sucks. I still try to see which situation is better and I still am completely against it, hopefully I never will be in a situation like that because I honestly will loose it.

  4. The Greatest Happiness Principle, definitely makes you think whether what is right and what is wrong. It is a strong indicator in order to make and choose your decisions wisely. It is also the root of it all. Tying it back to act morally or acting out of selfishness or not, you have to sit back and think and see if what you are about to do; will people benefit from it? will people like it? will you hurt others? is it fair? and the questions go on and that alone makes you not act out because you don’t want to hurt others for your own benefit. Personally speaking, I see myself using this 25/8 because I am very fond in making others happy whether I am happy or not in the things I end up doing. I feel like that goes a long way and not only makes me feel good at the end of the day but people will think of you and will do nice things for you. No one would want to do favors for someone ignorant or selfish, so in a way benefiting others can lead to your own benefit lots of the time. I hope that itself didn’t sound selfish aha.

  5. Overall, this course has provided me with a new way of thinking in a sense. Sometimes we do things subconsciously without really knowing why, but this course answers those questions and explains why we do things the way we do. I realized a lot of myself through the concepts used as said before the GHP is one of the main things I use and even being a moral saint; both loving and rational. It feels good to finally understand more of why humans think the way they do and although it may not fully justify ALL actions but it does give a better scope into which why such actions may have been used and/or necessary.

  6. One debate we had was the debate whether is it ok to choose your own childrens genetic traits. I came into the mentality of no its not. In a way you are messing with fate itself. What you get is what you get and it is your own duty to make the best out of it. I still think it is wrong. In a way you are covering up your insecurities with your children. Why would you make your child’s eyes blue if theres no blue eye genes? Do you not like your eyes? so in a sense that is how I see it. I don’t think that health issues can come into play because you can’t make someone healthy through genetics if not it can trigger another issue. So prior I was on the no side and still remain on the no side.

  7. In the session, we talked about Kant’s deontology. I think it is opposite of Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism. Mill’s tends to tell us that utilitarianism can be defined as the Greatest Happiness Principle, and it could help us to determine what is the result of happiness.  Oppositely, Kant’s deontology is more about responsible for our own actions, and it is the concept of the fact. Kant also argues that we should act morally because we need to do our duty, and we cannot lie. It is not about self-serving. I think Kant is trying to teach us how to dealing with our duty and be honest. I agree with Kant’s ethical theory that we should concerned with actions morally, but I also agree with Mill’s theories of GHP. The consequences are also important for us. it must not be overlooked before we do our duty.

  8. Capital punishment in my opinion is okay to an extent. For strong cases such as rape or murder, capital punishment is okay. I feel like this contradicts my believes for the trolly problem but at the end of the day, the thing that was done was horrendous, no matter how small or big the problem was. If they are going to spend life in person, some even commit suicide to not even deal with it so why not give them at least the option to do so. I believe capital punishment was legal for cases such as rape or murder and it was done publicly. I feel like throwing someone in jail, yeah they’re not in contact with the real world but its in a way letting them get away with it because they are not really paying for it by sitting away in a room. Such people who go to jail come out and still land in jail cause not everyone learns their lesson, so instead of having the risk of it happening again, a harsher punishment should come into play because you will think twice about loosing your life over a heat of the moment.

  9. In session 18, we learned that the“Five Faces of Oppression” of Young’s argument. It include religion, race, sex, culture and gender. It also can be define as marginalization and exploitation. I like Young’s argument, she said that “Oppression also traditionally carries a strong connotation of conquest & colonial domination.” I think she may try to teach us that we cannot determine a group or individual with structural and systemic phenomena. If we do, the group or individual will be oppression by Government or political intention. Just like Young’s description. I agree with that. Sometime people got force into an group and they cannot get rid of it, especially when it comes to young people and group. It will stymied and block their development.

  10. About the debate #2, it is an interesting topic.both teams shows logic reason, and most of them have excellent communicate skill. Their debate is more like a chat. It is interesting when they discussing and stinging something by using a lot of the fact and data. I don’t think it will be moral for the United States to institute a maximum wage on the super-wealthy. If we do, some people will not work hard as usual. Some people may idolize those super-wealthy people because they cannot work or handicapped, they cannot get the same opportunities as normal people. In additional, we cannot give the same standard to limit high-income people form different company or position. If everyone has same income, there will be the same responsibility to take, and not everyone can be president as the same.

  11. In session 9, we talked about “A Theory of Moral Sentiments” by Adam Smith. Smith said people are always making the decision based on their emotion and consciousness. He also said, “Our emotions guide us in judging actions as right or wrong.”I strong agree with Adam Smith’s views. It is good to use our emotion to determine our life value and realize the contributing to society. His argument is educational. As I learned, he is also the father of capitalism. The customer is also using emotion to guide and shift their direction and make their decision. We all know that law is based on morality. The judge also uses part of their emotion to make the decision in their mind, and so on. Therefore I strongly agree with Adam Smith.

  12. In session 17, we discussed the example about the train. Letting die or Killing. Thomson is sympathetic to the notion that killing is morally worse than letting someone die. Normally, people will choose to save 5 people who stock in the railroad. I also agree with that. I cannot see them die if I have a chance to save them. If someone wants me to sacrifice for the 5 people who will die, I would also say yes because it is valuable in order to get something that is more important. This is why we make hero movie, and it also same as the greatest happiness principle which helps more people benefit from the positive action.

  13. On April 5th, we discussed Thomson’s philosophy on Killing and Letting Die. We used the trolley problem to help understand what Thomson meant about it is more morally wrong to kill someone than let them die. For me her theory made completely sense. If a trolley was coming down the tracks that had four people tied to it, but you had the option to pull the lever to switch to the track that had one person, it would be better. This makes sense because you are saving more people than you are killing. However, the transplant example also makes sense, because you don’t want to kill a complete healthy individual just because their body parts would save the five that were dying. Thomson’s philosophy is definitely one that is situational.

  14. With our last lecture before the mini one and the debates, we discussed Young’s Five Faces of Oppression. I feel as if this was a great last lecture because Young’s ideas not only show true with our history with oppression, but also with modern times as well. We live in a society that does not wnat to admit to its oppressive behavior, but it is ever present. Young divides it into 5 different types: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. I believe that violence can also be part of the other four types, just from history over the oppressed rising up and trying to break free of the oppressor.

  15. May 17: Capital punishment debate

    During this debate, I was able to learn a lot about the benefits and disadvantages of the death penalty. I personally have always believed in the death penalty and listening to the debate reinforced my belief. I found both sides very interesting, but I tended to side with the yes side more often. People that go on death row are placed there through numerous exhausting trials. In the rare cases that they don’t belong there, they have time to prove their innocence. Letting them rot in a prison cell and waste taxpayer money is not better punishment than executing them. Instead, giving their life an expiration date and letting them feel their livelihood shrink after every day is way better.

  16. May 15: DEBATE #4: Is it morally acceptable for parents to choose their children’s traits via genetic engineering?

    I personally do not see a problem with using genetic engineering to choose children’s traits. Both sides of the debate brought up very compelling arguments. I can see why there’s so much backlash over something like this. It is not a natural process at all and it’s just very immoral to some people that think conservatively. On the other hand, if I was a parent and I could improve my offspring’s physical features or their health, I would not hesitate to do it. Parents want the best for their children, usually. If we didn’t live in an age where plastic surgery, a completely unnatural procedure, is so widely used, I would probably feel differently. But, given our society’s obsession with appearance, I don’t think it is fair to draw a line between plastic surgery and genetic engineering.

  17. May 10: DEBATE #3: Should people be allowed to end their lives through euthanasia (assisted suicide)?

    For this debate, I went into it without any real opinions. I always thought this kind of topic would be very subjective. Euthanasia depends on how severe the circumstances are. If the person has an option to use euthanasia, given how much requirements the yes side mentioned, then they must have a severe condition. If they want to end their life, or if their loved ones decide that their life is just too cruel, then assisted suicide should be allowed. It’s a difficult decision that is obviously very sad for everyone involved. If the family comes to a decision that they should end the person’s life, then I don’t see a problem with it. It’s true that they are deciding the life of someone other than themselves, but if they decide to end it, then it must have been after a mentally draining process. If I was in such a condition where my life could be ended through euthanasia, and my family thought that my life would be terrible if I kept living, I would not hold it against them. Who wants to see their loved ones die? If they came to that decision, then the situation is probably just too severe.

  18. In the session 12, We talked about Held’s contractarianism views in the class. Held said that women are always the one who take care the whole family, and men seem like a big child or people with disabilities. She argues that women cannot participate in politics because “it objects to contractarianism for presupposing & reinforcing inequality between the sexes.” Virginia Held also shows her Feminist Views that to have the principal of equal right and freedom by law. I agree with held’s point. Inequality problem is notable, and it is still worthy of our attention. We need same respect because we are the human being. Abigale Adams is the best finest feminist, I adore her because she owns the same courage as men. As I said before, we are the human being, it is not necessary to make a concession of gender problems. However, I learned a lot in this class.

  19. May 8: DEBATE #2: Would it be moral for United States to institute a maximum wage on the super-wealthy to facilitate wealth distribution?

    I thought this was the easiest debate in terms of which side to choose. I’m always for supporting individual rights. Sure, under something like GHP, the wealthy have an obligation to share their wealth, but that is not real life. People at their core are not generous people. You cannot expect everyone who is rich to want to share their wealth. Those that do choose to are definitely good people, but those that don’t can’t be classified as bad people. That is fully within their own rights and whatever choice they make cannot be judged to be immoral. What would be immoral would be to force these wealthy people to distribute their wealth to complete strangers. I know that if I was super rich, I wouldn’t want to give any of my money to strangers. I would not care even if it was “for the greater good”. It is my hard-earned money and nobody has the right to infringe on how it is distributed.

  20. April 26th –

    I found the in-class mini-lecture on non-monogamy to be very useful for my own debate preparation. It gave me a good outline and example of how I should format my debate. As far as the topic is concerned, I thought the yes side had very weak arguments. They focused solely on non-monogamy as a form of cheating. They should have prepared to argue against consensual non-monogamy, since that is very common in this generation. Based on the example in class, I knew that for my own debate I would have to consider all perspectives concerning my topic. I had to research arguments that I thought the opposing side would bring up so I would be completely prepared to refute anything that they said.

  21. Sound social system and education system are two ways to ensure the great happiness goal. The sound social system is a guarantee for basic human happiness. For example, law and social arrangement protect every individual’s legal right and interest. On the other hand, education plays a vital role in the development of human society. Accepting the good education can enhance human’s knowledge which provides a guideline for people to pursue their happiness. Moreover, education improves people social responsibility. Conversely, law and social arrangement ensure that people have right to receive the education.

  22. Kant believes that honesty is always being honest and never tell a lie in any situation. He also states that we should treat everyone with genuine heart unconditionally. Further, he thinks a person receives others’ trust only if this person keeps his promise. For example, Kant thinks it is immoral if a person lies to a bad guy even if the lie is for protecting himself. In my view, I agree that we should treat others faithfully so that we can receive the same respond. However, if telling a lie could protect someone from hurting, I would choose to tell a lie instead of telling the truth.

  23. Mill believes that to achieve the utilitarian goal should maximum the total happiness of society. It means, in some cases, to achieve the total great happiness of society could be sacrificed the individual’s happiness. However, his view is not always wanted people to be sacrificed, and if it up to a person, one should pressure the quality of happiness. Have a right to accept education and have an elegant habit are two ways can improve people’s life quality and make them, please. People also can do the right things to enrich their inner world, which also could increase the total happiness of society.

  24. April 24th

    The discussion about Wolf and her topic on Moral Saints was very interesting to me. I personally think the concept of a moral saint is absurd. That is something only possible in a made up fairy tale land. I’ve never believed in living a life that isn’t your own. Someone like a moral saint, who dedicates their lives to making other people’s lives better, is not living life. It is natural for people to put themselves before others. Making yourself happy is more important than making other people happy. I agree with Wolf’s conclusion. Even if you think the idea of a moral saint is absurd, it shouldn’t be condemned. The role morality plays in our lives is very subjective. There are alternatives models to live a human life for everyone.

  25. On May 17th, we have in the class debate on the should people be allowed to end their lives through euthanasia (assisted suicide)? Both Yes team and No team had made very compelling arguments. However, I believe that people should be allowed to end their lives through euthanasia. The reasons are people have the right to choose their life. They can decide for themselves whether to die or alive. Furthermore, most of the time, the patient cannot endure the pain. The treatments equal to suffering. The endless treatment means infinite pains. Endless pains only lead patient die without respect. Plus, the system of euthanasia is very strict, there are several levels of requirements that allowed people to die with euthanasia. So, it can prevent doctors and patients misuse the euthanasia.

  26. From the euthanasia group, the cons team also give the sufficient reason to support their opinions. First, euthanasia gives doctor too much power to decide the life or death to a patient. Second, euthanasia would destroy the reputation that medical enterprise would do everything to save a life. Third, euthanasia has encouraged psychologically vulnerable people to end their lives quickly. Fourth, euthanasia devalues some lives. Fifth, every life should be respected, however, euthanasia deprives patient’s right of living. Last but is most important, euthanasia is not the only way to relief the pain of the patient. The medical progress is in rapid development and scientists will create more effective medicine, doctors and patients should not give up the probability to survival chance.

  27. Thomas Hobbes believes the social contract idea which can be explained by the following terms. First, people always be nature under a natural condition. However, everyone pursues the right (political right) might involve to a conflict. In a severe condition, it would cause the war. Second, people give away their right to make up the government to protect themselves. Third, the government is in a supreme position. Fourth, people should obey the rule that government made and in some cases, people should give up their right to the government.

  28. Stanley Milgram and the Obedience to Authority Study. The purpose of this experiment is to test subjects, in the face of authority issued the order against conscience, humanity can play how many refused to power. By watching the experiment video, we through know the process of this investigation, by increasing the power level of electrical shock if the testers answer the question wrong. In the end, less than 10% testers choose to accept the “punishment” to respond the question. From the experiment, it proves that very few people can reject the power under the absolute authority.

  29. Aristotle believes that Knowledge is important to a man to have moral character: however, a man has knowledge is not equal to a man has a right moral behavior. People will choose to become good or evil after he can make the decision of them own. People’s action is not only determined by the knowledge they have but also impact by their personalities. So, many people do not have knowledge but have good behavior, because they have real personality and characteristic. Aristotle also believes that happiness is the result of the virtue. Virtue makes people perfectly behaved and made them feel happy.

  30. From session 20 lecture, we discussed the Susan Wolf’s idea of “Moral saint.” In Susan Wolf’s definition, moral saint means people should be perfect. In other words, it is moral if people are perfect. However, the moral saint seems to be impossible in today’s life. It is because nobody in the world is perfect. In the lecture, we also discussed two ways to imagine the moral saint. One is the loving saint. Loving saint is the opportunities to engage in intellectual and physical activities. Also, the rational saint means sacrifices own interest to the interests of other. I think the reasonable saint is possible in today’s life; we often see that some people sacrificed themselves and helped others.

  31. From session 21 lecture, we have discussed the debate structure by using the example of Is it morally wrong to be non-monogamous? Professor provides us a very insightful example showing us how to do a debate. I have learned how to make a strong argument and how to make the closing statement. I learned a lot from this lecture; it makes me more confident on the debate. For the monogamous topic, I have a different opinion. I think that it is morally wrong to be monogamous. If non-monogamous is an ok thing, I believe the marriage has no purpose, because of it against the oath. Once the marriage existed, the non-monogamous should never be ok. Also, non-monogamous means one have many sexual partners. That makes disease spread very quickly. And people is easily get infected by a disease. It leads to decrease in the life expectancy.

  32. From session 17 lecture, we have discussed the O’Neill and Kant’s views on the killing letting die, and the trolley problem. In the lecture, we first discussed the Kant’s thought towards to the murder letting die. Kant thinks that if people exist, we have the value. So pretty much Kant against killing letting die. More importantly, the O’ Neil’s views. To use someone as a mere means, or to instrumentalized a person, is to disregard their humanity. In other words, it is not moral to treat someone as the small way which is a tool. We also talked about the differences between Kantian ethics and utilitarianism. Both Kantian and utilitarianism have different life values and human life.

  33. From the team debate, I’ve learned that team work is critical to the team’s success. Working together and discussing the research paper that every team-member collected are necessary steps to defend our opponents. According to utilitarianism, every group mate devoted her person time to go through the group work and take one part from the whole work, which increases the great happiness. The result increases the great happiness to prove that our actions are right.

  34. 4/20

    Young, Five Faces of Oppression (Part II)

    I personally agree with Young’s view on social groups. I don’t think they are a divisive tool that should be eliminated from society. Groups at their nature are formed through good intentions. People bond with others through similarities. They appear divisive in appearance, but they are so much more than that. They give people a home to go to and empower others. For social justice, the goal should be to teach society to respect group differences without oppression. Groups will never be eliminated from society anyways. People can belong to many groups. One group doesn’t define who they are. A better thing to say is that people are defined by all the diverse groups that they are a part of.

  35. The topic of the last debate is that if capital punishment (the death penalty) should be morally permissible. My opinion for this topic is no. First, there is no evidence shows that the death penalty will decrease the criminal rate. Second, death penalty deprives the last chance of convict to prove he/she is not guilty if he/she is innocent. Third, the death penalty will create the excessive cost. Like the poison cost. Fourth, using poison to kill the convict is disobey the medical ethics. The aim of medical development is for saving people’s life not to kill them. Above all these reasons, I think the death penalty should abolish.

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