Professor Talbott                                                                                                                        Summer 2013

Office:  Savery 387                                                                                                                    Philosophy 338A:   

Phone:  543-5095                                                                                                                       Philosophy of Human Rights

Email:  wtalbott@                                                                                                                      Daily: 1:10-3:20

Office Hours:  Tu 3:30-5:30 and by appointment                                                                SAV 138




PHILOSOPHY 338A:  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:  This course will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to the philosophy of human rights.  The course begins with an overview of the main issues in the conceptualization and justification of human rights.  The course then considers the following special topics:  Should human rights be understood only negatively, as rights not to be coerced, or they include positive rights—that is, rights to be provided with something (e.g., subsistence, health care, or education).  Are human rights culturally relative?  We will consider the position that human rights reflect "Western values" and do not apply to societies with different values.  We will also consider the potential conflict between women's rights and traditional values; and feminist criticisms of human rights as androcentric.  Other questions include:  Are there gay and lesbian rights?  Are human rights individual rights, or do they also include group rights?  We will also discuss the new role of the International Criminal Court.  An important goal of the course is to enhance your ability to understand complex ideas and arguments, and to be able to explain them and to critically evaluate them in your writing.


               II.  Course Readings.  There is one required text, one optional text, and two course readers.  The required text is The Philosophy of Human Rights, Patrick Hayden, ed., (St. Paul:  Paragon House).  The optional text is Talbott, Which Rights Should Be Universal?.  Both texts and the two course readers are available for purchase at the University Book Store.  The readings from the Talbott text are also available in Volume 2 of the course reader.  So you have a choice to purchase the Talbott text or Volume 2 of the course reader.  Don't purchase both.  Except for the first class, readings should be done before the class for which they are assigned.

               STUDY QUESTIONS:  There are study questions for each course topic posted on the PHIL 338 Web site.  The study questions will help you to identify the important issues as you do the readings.  They will also serve as review questions for the exams.


               III.  Course Requirements.

               1. EMAIL ACCOUNT.  You are required to check your U.W. email account regularly.  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 within 24 hours.  My email address appears above. 

               2.  Class Attendance:  Students are required to attend all classes. 

               3.  End of Class Questions (1-5 Points Each).  At the end of each class, except the days that homework assignments are due and the day of the Midterm Exam and the Final Exam, you will be asked to give a written answer to a question on the readings or the discussion in lecture.  These assignments will provide practice for writing answers to exam questions.  Answers to end of class questions may not be turned in late, unless the absence is excused.  All answers to end of class questions for excused absences must be submitted before the Final Exam.  If you receive less than 1/2 credit on your answer to an end-of-class question, you may resubmit for up to 1/2 credit.  All resubmits must be received before the Final Exam.

               4.  Homework Assignments (1-2 pages).  There will be several homework assignments.  Assignments are posted on the PHIL 338 Canvas Page.  Note that two assignments (Original Position Assignment and Draft Introduction to Final Project) are to be submitted on the Canvas Discussion Board, so that all students can read all answers.  To obtain full credit for a homework assignment, you must submit it before class and attend class on the due date prepared to discuss the assignment, unless the absence is excused.  Anyone who does not turn in a homework assignment before class on the day it is due can only receive up to one half credit, unless the latenesss is excused.  Anyone who receives less than half credit on a homework assignment may resubmit it to earn up to half credit.  Resubmit via email.  All late homework and all homework resubmissions must be turned in by midnight on Wednesday July 24. 

               5.  Final Project (5-7 pages).  Your final project will involve researching a current human rights issue on the Web and writing a report based on what you find.  You must obtain approval from me for the topic of your final project by the end of class on Fri. July 12.  You must post a draft of your introduction on the PHIL 338 Canvas Site site by midnight on Tuesday, July 16.  Final projects should be posted on the PHIL 338 Canvas Site by midnight on Monday July 21.  See separate handout for more information on the Final Project.

               6.  Midterm Exam.  The Midterm Exam will be given in class on Wednesday July 10.  A list of midterm review questions will be distributed in class on Friday July 5.  All questions on the exam will be taken from the review questions (or from parts of the review questions).  There will be a review session in class on Tuesday July 9.

               7.  Final Exam.  The Final Exam will take place in class on Wed. July 24.  Final Exam Review Questions will be distributed in class on Friday July 19.  There will be a review in class on Tuesday, July 23. 

NOTE:  Please bring a pen and blank blue/green books with no missing pages to all exams. 


               IV.  Course Web Site.  All handouts, homework assignments, end-of-class questions, and the text of transparencies used in class will be available on the course Web site (see URL above).  So if you are ever absent, you can check the course Web site to find out what you missed.


               V.  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.


               VI.  Extensions Of Time.  Extensions of time should be requested in advance of the deadline.  Unexcused, late work will be penalized.  However, it is much better to turn work in late than not to turn it in at all. 


               VII.  Grades.  Grades will be based on points earned as follows:  (1) (2) End of Class Questions (Approximately 50 points); (3) Homework Assignments (50 Points); (3) Midterm Exam (150 Points); (4) Final Project (110 Points: 10 Points for Draft Introduction; and 100 Points for Final Version); (5) Final Exam (150 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.  Tuesday July 23, in class.  The course evaluation is your opportunity to evaluate my performance and to provide suggestions for improving the course.


               IX.  Return of Final Exams.  Unless other arrangements are made, Final Exams will be available for pick-up in the Philosophy Department Office, SAV 361, on Tuesday July 30.  If you would like your Final Exam to be mailed to you, please provide me with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for mailing.


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