Professor Talbott                                                                                                                      Spring 2005

Office:  Savery 252                                                                                                                   Philosophy 538A:

Phone:  543-5095                                                                                                                    Seminar in the

Email:  wtalbott@                                                                                                                     Philosophy of Human Rights

Office Hours:  M 3:30-4:30 and by appointment                                                                        Th:  3:30-5:50

URL:                                                                             SAV 331K




PHILOSOPHY 538A.  Seminar in the Philosophy of Human Rights


            Disability Resources For Students.  If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS), 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY).  If you have a letter from DRS indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class. 


            I. Course Goals:  Which rights, if any, should be guaranteed to all adult human beings with normal cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capacities?  This is the central normative question in the philosophy of human rights.  In this seminar, we will consider four parts of that question:  What are the basic human rights that a government should guarantee its citizens?  What other human rights should be a government guarantee its citizens in addition to the basic human rights?  What human rights should a government guaranteed to non-citizen residents?  Are there any human rights that governments should guarantee even to non-resident, non-citizens?  In addition to these substantive normative questions, we will consider and evaluate two different approaches to answering them, consequentialist and nonconsequentialist.  Students will develop their understanding of important theoretical human rights issues and will develop their ability to think, speak, and write critically on those issues.


II. Course Readings.  There are three required texts and one course reader for the course.  The following texts are available for purchase at the University Book Store:  Talbott, Which Rights Should Be Universal?; Rawls, The Law of Peoples; and Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights.  There is a course reader that will be available for purchase at the Copy Center in the Communications Building, Room B-042 in the second week of the quarter.  It contains part of the manuscript of my forthcoming book, Human Rights and Human Well-Being.


            III. Course Requirements:


            1. EMAIL ACCOUNT.  You are required to check your U.W. email account regularly.  (I used to allow students to substitute other email accounts.  Recently, the servers for hotmail and some other email services have rejected some of my messages, so I have no choice but to use the U.W. email accounts.)  I will use email to broadcast general course announcements.  You can use email to ask me questions about the course, including questions about the readings or the discussion in class.  You can usually count on receiving a reply to messages to me within 24 hours.  My email address appears above. 


            2. CLASS PREPARATION AND ATTENDANCE.  The class meets Thursday, 3:30-5:50.  Everyone is expected to do the assigned readings in advance and to attend and to participate in the discussion.  Class participation can improve your grade but cannot lower it. 


3. SHORT (2-PAGE) RESPONSE PAPERS.  Each week, except the first week and the week you are discussion leader, you will send me a written discussion of some important issue raised by the readings.  The response paper should be grounded in the readings, but it should not be purely expository.  It should include some ideas of your own in responses to the readings.  Send these response papers to me as email attachments in Word format, before class on the day the readings are to be discussed.  The name of the file should begin with your last name.  You must be in class on the day it is due, to receive full credit for your response paper, unless your absence is excused. 


            4.  DISCUSSION LEADER AND 5-PAGE PAPER.  Students will sign up singly or in pairs to lead a one-hour discussion during one of the seminar sessions.  Each student must sign up to lead a discussion session by the end of class on Thursday, April 7.  Sign-ups will be on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you sign up, the greater your choice of topics.  Discussion leaders should talk to me about their discussion topic at least 24 hours before their discussion session.  In weeks when there are two discussion leaders, you are encouraged to coordinate your discussion—for example, to take opposing sides on an important issue.  Your grade will be based, in part, on the quality of the discussion you generate.


            5. TERM PAPER (10-20 PAGES).  Each student is required to prepare a term paper. Any of the issues discussed in the course could be the basis for a term paper.  I will provide many suggestions for term paper topics during the course.  All term paper topics must be discussed with me and approved on or before the end of class on Thursday, May 19 (though you are encouraged to talk to me about your term paper before that date). You are expected to submit a draft of your term paper for comments, before you prepare the final version.  Submit the draft as an email attachment, with a filename that begins with your last name.  The deadline for submitting a draft for comments is the end of the last class on Thursday, June 2.  Drafts will be returned by Monday, June 6.  TERM PAPERS ARE DUE AT 4:30 P.M. ON THURSDAY, JUNE 9.  Submit your term paper as a email attachment, with a filename that begins with your last name.  Reasonable extensions of time for any of the deadlines may be requested.  See below for more information on extensions of time.


            IV. Extensions Of Time.  Extensions of time should be requested in advance of the deadline.  Unexcused, late work will be penalized.  However, late work still earns partial credit.  I DO NOT INTEND TO GRANT ANY INCOMPLETES, EXCEPT IN CASES OF GENUINE EMERGENCIES. 


            V. Course Web Site.  All handouts and transparencies will be available on the course Web site (see URL above). 


            VI. Academic Integrity. Whenever you turn in any assignment in this course, the understanding is that what you are turning in is your own original work, except to the extent that you explicitly credit others for their contributions. You have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, by always attributing any argument or idea that you have borrowed, even if you have modified it, to its source.  The source may be written or oral.  For example, if an argument was suggested by a fellow student, include that information in a footnote.  If it is determined that there has been cheating that involves one student copying another's work on an assignment or exam, if both students were aware of the copying, both will receive zero credit for the assignment or exam, in addition to any other sanctions that might be imposed.


            VII. Grades.  Grades will be based on total points (out of a total possible of 340 points) as follows:  Response papers (80 points); discussion leader (10 points); discussion paper (50 points); and term paper (200 points). Grades are based on total points earned, as follows:  96% = 4.0; 95% = 3.9; 90% = 3.5; 80% = 3.0; 65% = 2.0; 50% = 1.0.  Your contribution to discussion in class can improve your grade, but cannot lower it.


            VIII. Course Evaluation.  Friday, June 3, in class.  The course evaluation is your opportunity to evaluate my performance and to provide suggestions for improving the course.