College of San Mateo

Contemporary Social and Moral Issues

David G. Danielson contact

Dave’s Home Page

Philosophy Department Web Page



Course Info


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Readings/ Assignments


Other Resources

Grading Info

Other Info



Course Description

This is a course on ethics. We will examine in depth the complexity of Ethical issues and decisions. We will look at the philosophic grounds for making certain ethical decisions. Most of the time we will examine and discuss a variety of practical ethical concerns, situations that call for an ethical response.

The course will consist of some lectures, in-class discussions of issues and discussion of articles written on these issues. During the course you will be participating in small/large group discussions. And you will participate as a member of a group project.

The goal of this course is not to try and change anyone's views about any of these issues. Rather it is an attempt to broaden our understanding of the issues, and gain an awareness of the complexity of the decisions connected with these issues. Since the topics are connected very closely with values and beliefs, the class is designed to allow persons to hear other points of view as well as express their own views.

For a copy of the Syllabus click here.

Notebook update

Logic Handout        Logic Worksheet

Multitasking Article

Grammar Help

i.e. and e.g.


Common Misspellings

Using the Apostrophe

Who and Whom


An article entitled “Everybody Does It.” This is about cheating.

Cheating 9/7/12 NYT

TED talk "Why we think it's okay to cheat and steal, sometimes."

This is a link to the Josephson Ethics Institute


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  The readings for the class are listed on the syllabus which you can download above. The readings for each week ought to be read before the first class of the week. This will allow discussion on the topics. The homework assignments are due on Thursdays except where indicated in class.

Ethical Theories – Here are links to very good explanations of the theories. Dr. Sandra LaFave’s site.


(Here is a review of Guitar Hero 3 which is relevant to Mill.)

Kant’s Deontological Theory

Podcast on Kant's Moral Theory

Archived interview with William Irvine on Stoic Happiness

Aristotle's Virtue Ethics

Jon Stewart interrogating Chris Matthews on the Daily Show

Lawrence Hinman, Univerity of San Diego speaking on Aristotle's Ethics

A podcast on Aristotle's concept of Happiness

The State of Psychology - Martin Seligman (Here Seligman offers a model of life similar to Aristotle's Eudaimonia.


Morality and Science

Sam Harris's TED Talk

Harris essay on the Above

David Eagleman on The Brain and the Law

Reading Each Other's Minds Rebecca Saxe

The Moral Life of Babies

Morality and Disgust

Office Discussion

Each student will write a summary of one of the articles we read on one of the topics, e.g. Euthanasia, and read the summary to me in the office. The summary should be two pages long and all in your own words. Do not quote the original article. Bring two copies of the summary, one for me, one for you. I want a summary, not an essay.

How to Write a Summary


Service Learning

The Service Learning assignment is an opportunity for you to work in some area that is related to Ethics, or deals with a moral issue. These can be quite broad in interpretation. The goal is for you to find some place to work for 7 - 10 hours which will broaden your awareness of services and opportunities in the community. There are several websites below that can aid you in finding service opportunities. While you are working, please record your experiences in the notebook. At the end of the semester, there will be two options for the assignment. 1) Write a 1 - 2 page summary of what you did, where you did it, and what you learned. or 2) Give a short presentation on what you did etc. on the date of the final exam.

An good way to find out Service Learning opportunities

Here is a nice distinction between Helping and Serving. by Rachel Naomi Remen M.D.

Caille Millner on Karma Kitchen

Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex, and Giving, Nicholas Kristof

D.I. Y. Foreign Aid Revolutionaries



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Required Materials

Required Text: Today's Moral Issues, Bonevac Amazon (Correct edition)


Recommended Text: Ethical Insights: A Brief Introduction, Birsch (ABE Books)


Philosophy Notebook

You will also need to keep a philosophy notebook. We will be discussing this in class regularly. Some days, the 1st 10 minutes of each class will be spent writing.

There is also a website devoted to The Work of Byron Katie. It's well worth looking at for a way to avoid suffering.

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Other Resources

Below are some websites that may be of help during the semester.

Charity Navigator

This is a link to a Philosophy Encyclopedia.

This is a link that has a comprehensive list of philosophy websites.


Death Penalty

TED talk Death Row

Death Row Kids USA Video

Pro / Con Death Penalty

Interesting Prison Story

DNA Evidence in Texas

A Letter from Death Row

Prison and Drugs



Frontline Video "The Last Abortion Clinic"

Google Searchs and Self-Induced Abortion

The New Abortion Providers

Abortion Laws Update NYT 9/25/11

Prominent Republican Supporter Had an Abortion 10/13/11

Abortion Sites in Texas



Pros and Cons

Teenagers Facing Death 3/29/15

A Good Exit (Harper's Magazine)

"Futilitarianism" S.F. Chronicle 12/2/01

Advanced Directive

Suicide Tourist Frontline Video

Facing Death: How far would you go to sustain the life of someone you love, or your own? Frontline Video

The Deadly Choices at Memorial (NYT 8/30/09)

Frontline program on Dr. Kevorkian Part 1

Philosophy Bites Simon Critchley on Suicide



They are Made of Meat

Michael Pollen on Democracy Now

The Meatrix

Frans de Waal NYT article "What I learned from Tickling Apes" 4/10/16



Cyber War (New Yorker article 11/1/10)

Why We Fight (Documentary well worth watching.)

How to Kill Libya's Khadafy legally: as a colonel

The Power of Nightmares part 1

$ Spent on Weapons

The Atomic Cafe (documentary)


Economic Equality

A film on Really Rich People (A follow up film called "The One Percent". It's in multiple stages.

What the 1% doesn't want you to know

"Inequality is a Choice" Kristof 5/3/15

Does Money Make You Mean? TED Talk

A Short Video showing the disparity between Rich and Poor

Park Avenue: Money Power and the American Dream

Dodd-Frank Defanged, Gary Rivlin

Robert Reich on Flat Tax

Why the 99% is Mad

Inside the Meltdown - Frontline

The Roots of the Financial Crisis

Law Firm's Halloween Costumes

Who Shredded our Safety Net - Mother Jones

Mike Burke's Graph Article

Buy Nothing Day

Christmas Gift Exemption Voucher

Bankruptcy and Health Care

America is without a Middle Class

The Courts and Foreclosures

Derailing for Dummies

Brooksley Born and the Meltdown

Who's Counting Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics


TED Naomi Klein Addicted to Risk

Carl Sagan "A Pale Blue Dot"

Plastic and Birds

The Corporation, a documentary

Home, a documentary


Sex Slaves - Frontline

Child Prostitution NOW program

Child Prostitution

New York Times "When did Porn become Sex Ed?

An piece on the Aziz Ansari incident

•Zimbardo The Demise of Guys
•Amy Schumer’s Relationship Center
(With the Schumer video, skip to the bit on a spoof of Sports Center. It begins at 2:53.)


Marriage Article Time Magazine 11/29/10




A site that has a slide show of lynching photos. Here.


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 A good reference on Plagiarism is located HERE

Other Information

 Please make an effort to be on time. Arriving late disrupts the learning environment. If you need to leave a little earlier please do so. The classroom will always be open early so there will be a place to come and study, read, or write in the notebook.



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Philosophy Department
Date of last update 8/4/15
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