Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Syllabus Course Information Welcome to Climate Ethics. We meet on MWF, 1:25-2:15 in South College, E470. Here is my contact information: Instructor: Bob Gruber (Call me “Bob” please.) Email: [email protected] Office: South College E416 Student Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:15 - 3:15, and by appointment. Website: Moodle Course Description Climate Ethics provides an introduction to the ethical issues that arise in connection with anthropogenic climate change and other environmental problems. In this class, we will focus on climate change as it relates to the issues of sustainable individual behavior, biodiversity loss, non-human animal welfare, and the value of the natural environment. We will explore questions such as: (a) what are your obligations with respect to the environment?; (b) how should we understand the value of nature?; (c) what is the moral status of nonhuman animals, and how should we take their welfare into account?; (d) what should you do about climate change? The primary goal of this course is to engage in a systematic, philosophical investigation of the ethical significance of the changes our society brings upon the environment, and how you fit in. Homeworks There will be ten short essay assignments throughout the course. These are designed to get you thinking about the concepts and arguments we will discuss in class. You will be asked to compare your views with the views of various authors. Each assignment should take about one double-spaced page to complete and is expected to take a couple of hours. Quizzes There will be three in-class quizzes, which will take place on the Friday meeting during week 3, week 7, and week 12. I will provide possible quiz questions the week before each quiz. To do well on quizzes, you must demonstrate your competency with the course material and analytic methodology. Quiz essays will ask you to (i) recognize the form of an argument, (ii) define technical terms, (iii) offer criticism targeted at specific premises, (iv) identify the moral principles underlying various claims, and (v) extract, explain, and critically evaluate arguments from quoted passages.

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Final Exam There will be no final exam. Instead, (weather permitting) we will go on a class hike during our regularly scheduled final exam time. The hike is a fun opportunity to reflect on the semester. Attendance and Participation I will attend every class, prepared to engage in philosophical thought and discussion, and I expect you all to do the same. Participation doesn’t necessarily require talking aloud during class (although I encourage you all to ask questions and raise critical points), but it does require having done the readings before class and contributing to small group discussion. To evaluate attendance and participation, I will assign a reading question to be completed before each class. I will post the questions on Moodle, under the reading assignment for the day. The reading questions are also listed on the course calendar. You should find some space in your notebook to write your responses to reading questions. You will share your answers with a partner during the first five minutes of each class. I will circulate, clarifying any confusions, and then I will encourage some students to share answers with the entire class. These short reading responses are graded based solely on completion; if you answer the question and discuss it with a partner, you will get a point. Each reading question is worth one point for up to 25 total points (there are twenty-eight reading questions in total, so there are three opportunities to ‘drop’ a reading question). In addition to reading questions, there are two weeks during the course dedicated to in-class debates (week 11 and week 12). To prepare for each debate, you will be required to meet up with a small group outside of class. More information about these meetings is will be found on Homework 8 and Homework 9. Term Paper Project With my support, and with the support of your peers, each of you will produce a wellreasoned and thoroughly defended argument about climate ethics in the format of a term paper. In addition, each of you will practice presenting your ideas to the class. The term paper project has six components: 1. Thinking about a topic and discussing it with me. 2. Writing and submitting a term paper proposal. 3. Conferencing with me about your proposal. 4. Submitting a rough draft and engaging in peer-editing. 5. Submitting a final draft of your paper for evaluation. 6. Preparing a ten minute presentation and delivering it to the class. As the semester progresses, I’ll give you more information about what is required of each component. See the extended course calendar for information about when each is due.

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Final Grade Your final grade for the course is a function of homeworks, quizzes, reading questions, and term paper project. There are 200 total points this semester, which are allocated as follows: ten homeworks 5pts each (total 50pts) quiz 1 10pts quiz 2 20pts quiz 3 30pts reading questions 1pt each (total 25pts) term paper project: discussing your topic with me 5pts term paper proposal 5pts attending the conference 5pts submitting rough draft 5pts final paper 30pts presentation 15pts Your final course letter grade will be determined by the following scale. A AB+ B BC+ C CD+ D DF

185–200 180–184 174–179 166–173 160–165 154–159 146–153 140–145 134–139 126–133 120–125 0–129

If you have any questions about your grade at any point in the semester, please ask. Cheating and Plagiarism Your work in this class should be your own. Plagiarism is tricky. If you’re curious at all about whether something counts as plagiarism, please ask! The university policy is written up here: In this class, I’ll be very explicit about when it is OK to work together and when you must work independently. Here is a link to our academic honesty policy:

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Classroom Respect In class, we will be discussing controversial issues. In any ethics class, it is especially important to remind ourselves to be respectful of the experiences and views of others. FYI, using cell phones and surfing the Internet in class are forms of disrespect. Accommodation Policy UMass is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services or the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements. Extended Course Calendar The following course calendar includes all of the assigned readings and reading questions, highlights some important dates, and explains how the class may go, depending on our pacing. For an up-to-date course calendar, see Moodle. Week 1

What’s the Problem?

Day 1

No reading assignment for today.

Day 2

Read sections 1 and 2 of Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, “It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations” and “How Bad for the Environment can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?” from The Onion. Reading question: In a short paragraph, summarize the problem that Sinnott-Armstrong is interested in.

Day 3

Read pages 10 - 19 of the scanned excerpt from Dire Predictions and read “The Village that Will be Swept Away” from The Atlantic. Reading question: What is the difference between climate and weather? Homework 1 is due today.

Week 2

Is it Wrong to Drive an SUV for Fun?

Day 4

Read section 3 of Sinnott-Armstrong, “It’s Not My Fault”. Reading question: Why doesn’t Sinnott-Armstrong think that a joyride causes harm?

Day 5

Read sections 4 and 5 of “It’s Not My Fault”. Reading question: Why does Sinnott-Armstrong reject the ideal law principle?

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Day 6

Read sections 6 and 7 of “It’s Not My Fault”. Reading question: What is the example of Max and Minnie supposed to show? Homework 2 is due today.

Week 3

Are Individual Emissions Harmful?

Day 7

Read section 3.2 of Holly Lawford-Smith, “Difference-making and Individuals’ Climate-related Obligations”. Reading question: Would Lawford-Smith agree with Sinnott-Armstrong’s claim that his joyride doesn’t cause harm to anybody? Why or why not?

Day 8

Read pages 173 - 175 of Jonathan Glover, “It Makes No Difference Whether or not I do it”. Reading question: What is the distinction between an absolute threshold case and a discrimination threshold case? Do you think climate change is an absolute threshold case or discrimination threshold case?

Day 9

No reading assignment for today. Quiz 1 is today.

Week 4

Share of the Total, Consequentialism, and Expected Utility

Day 10

Read Jonathan Nolt, “How Harmful are the Average American’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions?” Reading question: See if you can summarize (in about a paragraph) how Nolt calculates the harm done by an average American.

Day 11

Read the first couple paragraphs of Chapter 3 of Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons. Reading question: In your own words, explain what the First Rescue Mission case is supposed to show.

Day 12

Read section 1 and the first two paragraphs of section 2 of Fred Feldman, “Actual Utility, the Objection from Impracticality, and the Move to Expected Utility”. Reading question: Try to calculate the expected utility of prescribing A and the expected utility of prescribing B. Homework 3 is due today.

Week 5

Two Approaches: Expected Utility and Kantian Ethics No class today. (UMass holiday)

Day 13

Read section VIII (starting on page 121) of Shelly Kagan, “Do I Make A Difference?” Reading question: How does Kagan’s expected utility solution apply to Walter’s joyride?

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Day 14

Spring 2017

Read excerpt from Kant’s “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals”. Reading question: Try to explain, in your own words, why Kant thinks it is morally wrong to make a false promise. Homework 4 is due today. Deadline to discuss term paper topic with me.

Week 6

Kantian Ethics and Virtue Ethics

Day 15

Read Casey Rentmeester, “A Kantian Look at Climate Change”, the section titled ‘Categorical Imperative as imperative’. Reading question: Do you agree with Rentmeester’s application of the categorical imperative?

Day 16

Read Ronald Sandler, “Environmental Virtue Ethics”. Reading question: On page 68, Sandler mentions four ‘environmental heroes’. Do a little research about one of these people, and explain how the person exemplified one or more of the character traits Sandler attributes to him or her.

Day 17

Read pages 69 - 72 of Sandler, “Environmental Virtue Ethics”. Reading question: Summarize and explain two of Sandler’s strategies for specifying environmental virtue. Homework 5 due today. You must submit your term paper proposal by today.

Week 7

So. . . is Walter’s Joyride Morally Wrong? Term paper proposal conferences will be held this week.

Day 18

Reread section 7 of Sinott-Armstrong, “It’s Not My Fault”. Reading question: Do you agree with Sinnott-Armstrong’s conclusion in the last paragraph of his article? Why or why not?

Day 19

Skim one of the following articles • “Attributing human mortality during extreme heat waves to anthropogenic climate change”, Environmental Research Letters • “Observations of mortality associated with extended open-water swimming by polar bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea”, Polar Biology • “Average arctic temperature in Svalbard ‘could end up above freezing for first time in history’ ”, Independent • “First mammal species goes extinct due to climate change”, National Geographic • “Climate change warnings for coral reef may have come to pass, scientists say”, The Guardian Reading question: Summarize the main idea of the article you read.

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Day 20

No reading assignment for today. Quiz 2 is today.

Week 8

Climate Casualties, Moral Standing, Non-Instrumental Value

Day 21

Read William Grey, “Last Man Arguments”. Reading question: Do you share the intuition that the last person acts wrongly? Why or why not?

Day 22

Read pages 173 - 175 of Elliott Sober, “Philosophical Problems for Environmentalism”. Reading question: What is one difference between animal liberationism and environmentalism?

Day 23

Read pages 175 - 186 of “Philosophical Problems for Environmentalism”. Reading question: Suppose you literally don’t know what consequences the extinction of a species might bring. Why is this not a good reason for species preservation? Homework 6 is due today.

Week 9

Philosophical Problems for Environmentalism

Day 24

Read pages 187-191 of “Philosophical Problems for Environmentalism”. Reading question: According to Sober, “for both natural objects and for works of art, our values extend beyond the concerns we have for experiencing pleasure.” Can you give an example of what Sober means by this?

Day 25

Read section 4.2 of Sahotra Sarkar, Biodiversity and Environmental Philosophy: An Introduction. Reading question: See if you can explain the difference between demand value and transformative value.

Day 26

Read the introduction, section I, and section III of Kenneth Goodpaster, “On Being Morally Considerable.” Reading question: Why might someone believe that we shouldn’t restrict moral considerability to rational persons? Homework 7 is due today.

Week 10

The Moral Standing of Nonhuman Animals

Day 27

Read section 1 of Lori Gruen, “The Moral Status of Animals”. Reading question: Why did Kant think it’s wrong to harm nonhuman animals?

Day 28

Read section 2 of “The Moral Status of Animals”. Reading question: What is a difference between the animal-rights position and the utilitarian position? The rough draft of your term paper is due today.

Phil 166 - Climate Ethics

Spring 2017

Day 29

Read pages 288-290 of Clare Palmer, “Does Nature Matter? The Place of the Non-human in the Ethics of Climate Change”. Reading question: Why is it difficult to say that climate change has harmed a particular group of young armadillos?

Week 11

Should Universities Divest from Fossil Fuels?

Day 30

No reading assignment today. In-class peer-editing.

Day 31

Listen to radio program “Interview with Marty Meehan: UMass becomes the first major U.S. public university to divest” from Living On Earth. Reading question: What is fossil-fuel divestment?

Day 32

No reading assignment today—in-class debate! Homework 8 is due today.

Week 12

Should Massachusetts Implement Carbon Pricing?

Day 33

Skim proposed bill “S.1747 an act combating climate change”. Reading question: What is the basic idea underlying carbon pricing?

Day 34

No reading assignment today—in-class debate! Homework 9 is due today.

Day 35

Quiz 3 is today.

Week 13

Presentations The final draft of your term paper is due.

Day 36

No reading assignment today—student presentations!

Day 37

No reading assignment today—student presentations!

Day 38

No reading assignment today—student presentations!

Week 14


Day 39

No reading assignment today—student presentations! Homework 10 is due today. Class hike (during scheduled final exam time)



Phil 166 - Climate Ethics Spring 2017 Syllabus Course Information Welcome to Climate Ethics. We meet on MWF, 1:25-2:15 in South College, E470. Here ...

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