Philosophy 2: Society and Values

Los Angeles Pierce College

Department of Philosophy & Sociology

Spring, 2020


Contact Information

Instructor: Christopher Lay, Ph.D

Email: and


Office Location: Room 910 in the 900/IRIS Building


Office Hours in Canvas

A) Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 3:00PM. 

B) by appointment if you can't meet during the above times. 

A) Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday from 8:30 to 9:20AM (no appointment necessary),

B) Every Thursday from 12:40 to 2:30PM (no appointment necessary),

C) Tuesday, February 11 from 12:45 to 1:15PM (no appointment necessary),

D) Tuesday, February 18 from 12:45 to 1:15PM (no appointment necessary),

E) Tuesday, February 25 from 12:45 to 1:15PM (no appointment necessary),

F) Wednesday, March 4 from 2:15 to 2:45 (no appointment necessary),

G) Thursday, March 12 from 2:30 to 3PM (no appointment necessary), or

H) by appointment if you can't meet during the above times. 

These times will occasionally change.  I will give advance warning via email when these times change.  I will add more office hours in March, April, May and June. 


Meeting Times and Place for Course # 16169

Lecture Meeting Times:   Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:45 to 2:10PM

Meeting Location:   BEH 1309 Canvas


Catalog Course Description

"Students study and evaluate some of the traditional and contemporary theories in social and political philosophy, covering topics such as rights, governments, social institutions, citizenship, and distributive justice."





Student Learning Outcomes:

1.  Students will demonstrate the ability to apply thinking skills to some of the major problems and responses central to philosophical questioning.

2.  Students will understand, comprehend, subdivide, and inter-relate major problems, philosophical questions, and responses central to social and political philosophy. 


Required Texts


All materials will be found, for free, online. 



Recommended Texts


Relevant entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Course Grade and Assignments

Group Exercise & Quizzes

10% of course grade


90% of course grade


Course Grade Grading Scale


100 – 90%


89 – 80%


79 – 70%


69 – 60%


59 – 0%


Essay Grade Gradings Scale


100 - 94%


93 - 90%


89 - 87%


86 - 83%


82 - 80%


79 - 77%


76 - 73%


72 - 70%


69 - 67%


66 - 63%


62 - 60%


59 – 0%


Quiz and Groupwork Grading Scale



No Credit



General Ground Rules:

Do what you can to be collegial and respectful–and don't be intentionally offensive. 


Attendance (from the Pierce College Catalogue):

"Students are expected to be in class on time and to remain for the entire class period. Medical appointments, work, job interviews, child-care responsibilities, etc. should be arranged so as not to occur during class time. Please do not make requests for exceptions. Any student who has unexcused absences equaling one week's worth of class time prior to census date may be excluded. Students may drop the class online, before the last day to drop. Students should never rely on the instructor to exclude them. Do not call the college offices to report absences … ."

"By the last day to add the class, students are responsible to inform the instructor of any anticipated absences due to observance of major religious holidays so that alternative arrangements may be made. Failure to do so may result in an inability to make other arrangements or a lower grade." 

"Students who are registered in a class and miss the first meeting may lose their right to a place in the class, but the instructor may consider special circumstances. Instructors will generally only exclude students through the census date for non-attendance. It is the student's responsibility to drop classes in time to avoid fees and/or grades of 'W'."


In-Class Participation

You are expected to do the readings on time (i.e. before the class period indicated) and come to class prepared to discuss them. 


Group Exercises and Quizzes

At various times during the semester/session we will engage in group exercises and quizzes for credit/no-credit.  Other, specific expectations for the group exercises and quizzes will be spelled out in the group exercise prompts and the quizzes themselves.  Note: at no point will you be graded on someone else's performance, or lack of performance.  The lowest four group exercise and quiz grades will be dropped–so no make-up group exercises or quizzes will be given (unless you have some credible excuse, e.g. doctor's note, jury summons, obituary notice, etc.).  Here are some of my notes on group work. 



You will be given a prompt for each of the four essays, and approximately a week to complete it.  The single lowest of the four grades will be dropped.  Note: I will not drop an essay grade if the essay in question includes an instance of plagiarism.  The essays for this class must be philosophical.  Your essay must have an original thesis/argument and support for that thesis/argument.  Other, specific expectations for the essay will be spelled out in the essay prompts.  Also, you will be expected to correct errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, and spelling.  Here are some of my notes on writing philosophy essays. 



You are encouraged (but not required) to submit rough drafts of assignments (except the final essay).  I will comment on your draft and offer advice and assistance where I can.  Rough drafts should not exceed half of the final draft length (e.g. if the final assignment is three pages the rough draft submitted for comments should not exceed one and a half pages).  The deadline for turning in a draft for comments is three days before the scheduled due date.  If I get swamped with drafts before the assignment is due I sometimes return comments two or three days later, along with an extended due date, so that you have time to take my comments into consideration. 


Late Paper Policy

If you have a credible excuse (e.g., doctor's note, jury summons, obituary notice, etc.) late take-home assignments will be accepted.  Extensions for take-home assignments will be given only when 1) a compelling reason is given and 2) permission is sought at least three days before the normal deadline.  Without a credible excuse, late assignments will be given a third of a letter grade penalty for each day the assignment is late for up to seven days, after which late assignments without a credible excess will not be accepted for anything more than half of the assignment's value. 


Extra Credit

For 2.5% of extra credit, to be applied to your final course grade, seek out the assistance of our tutor at least twice before the middle of the semester/session.  For another 2.5% of extra credit, to be applied to your final course grade, attend some on-campus event (the middle of the semester/session, but before the final essay is due) and apply some of the skills we've developed over the course of the semester.  More details about both of these extra credit options can be found here:


Turn-Around Times for Emails, Rough Drafts, and Final Drafts

I am usually able to respond to emails within 24-hours, but sometimes I cannot (e.g., it is the weekend, or it is the day before an assignment is due and everyone is emailing me with last-minute questions, etc.)  I usually return rough drafts with comments about two days after they have been submitted to me, but sometimes it takes longer because there is a sudden flood of rough drafts (e.g., when the due date is two days away).  I usually return final drafts (with the exception of the final assignment of the semester) two or three weeks (or one week during a shorter session) after they have been submitted to me (which is not always the same thing as the assignment's due date).  Taking that amount of time to grade final drafts allows me to give you all of the comments I give—I try and give many, many comments.  The final assignment of the semester will be returned upon request only. 


Accommodations for Students with Disabilities (from the Pierce College Catalogue):

"Students with physical, psychological or learning disabilities are offered a wide range of services including registration, special parking and counseling. These services are also available to students with a temporary disability such as injury or post-operative recuperation. All services and equipment are provided free of charge to any qualifying disabled student."

"Deaf and learning disabled students are offered additional services including special classes, tutoring and computer-assisted instruction. The Disabled Students Office is located in the Student Services Building, room 48175. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m." 

Phone: (818) 719-6430

Fax: (818) 710-4219

VP Number:(818) 436-0467



Three Attempts Policy

Familiarize yourself with the new statewide policy regarding how many times (generally 3) you may attempt a class before you are ‘locked out’ of further attempts in the LACCD.  See the Pierce College Schedule of Classes, the Counseling Center, or me for more info. 


Name and Gender Policy

The campus provides me with a roster that lists the name that it has on record for you.  But you may prefer a different name. In such cases, please email me or correct me in class and I’ll gladly refer to you however you wish as best I can.  The same applies with gender identity – if you identify with a particular pronoun, set of pronouns, or always by your proper name, please let me know and I’ll be sure to my part.


Current and Former Foster Students

Pierce College is making a special effort to support current and former foster youths at Pierce College. If you are a current or former foster youth you may qualify for other support services to help you achieve your educational goals.  Please contact our Guardian Scholars Program at (818) 710-3323 or send an email to so you can get the support you are eligible for.


Dates to Remember

Make sure to familiarize yourself with important dates (official holidays, the last day to drop without a W, the last day to drop with a W, etc.) found on the Pierce College academic calendar.


Reading and Assignment Schedule

(Subject to occasional change)



Week One

Introductions, Morality, & Relativism


Reading: Course Syllabus including Schedule of Readings and Assignments  


Reading: Midgley's "Trying Out One's New Sword"


Week Two

Is ≠ Ought & Moral Relativism


Reading: Midgley's "Trying Out One's New Sword"


Week Three

Moral Relativism


Reading: Excerpts from Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals "First Essay"


Week Four

Moral Relativism


Reading: Excerpts from Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals "First Essay"


Sunday, March 8

Thursday, March 5

First Essay Due


Week Five

Duty Theory


Reading: excerpts from Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals


Week Six

Duty Theory


Reading: excerpts from Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals


Week Seven



Reading: excerpts from Mill's Utilitarianism


Week Eight



Reading: excerpts from Mill's Utilitarianism


Friday, April 17th Monday, April 20th

Second Essay Due


Week Nine

Mill's Principle of Harm


Reading: excerpts from Mill's On Liberty


Week Ten

Mill's Principle of Harm


Reading: excerpts from Mill's On Liberty


Week Eleven

Mill's Principle of Harm


Reading: excerpts from Mill's On Liberty


Week Twelve

Justice: an Historical Version


Reading: excerpts from Paine's "Agrarian Justice"



Third Essay Due


Week Thirteen

Justice:  a Contemporary Argument


Reading: excerpts from Rawls' "Justice as Fairness"  


Week Fourteen

Justice:  a Contemporary Argument

Wednesday Only

Reading: excerpts from Rawls' "Justice as Fairness"  


Week Fifteen

Justice:  a Contemporary Argument

Monday Only 

Reading: excerpts from Rawls' "Justice as Fairness"  


Finals Week(s)


Monday, June 8

Final Essay due by 11:59PM via Canvas






Conduct on Campus for Students and Instructors (from 


"A student enrolling in one of the Los Angeles Community Colleges may rightfully expect that the faculty and administrators of the Colleges will maintain an environment in which there is freedom to learn. This requires that there be appropriate conditions and opportunities in the classroom and on the campus. As members of the college community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment, to engage in the sustained and independent search for truth, and to exercise their rights to free inquiry and free speech in a responsible, non-violent manner. In the furtherance of the students' interest in free inquiry and the search for truth, it is also important that students be able to hear the views of non-students and engage in the free exchange of ideas with non-students."


Academic Honesty (from the Pierce College Catalogue):

"I . Violations of academic honesty and integrity occur when a student participates in any act in which he/she uses deception or fraud while performing an academic activity. Violations include, but are not limited to, the following:

"• Submitting for a grade the words, ideas, and/or written work (including laboratory notes and drawings) of another person without giving due credit to that person. This includes purchased papers or papers written by other students."


Student Grievances (from 

"The student grievance procedure is designed to provide a prompt and equitable means for resolving student grievances, including but not limited to the grading process. The grievance procedure may be initiated by a student or group of students who reasonably believe that they have been subject to unjust action or denied rights that adversely affect their status, rights, or privileges as a student. To initiate a student grievance, please contact the Office of Student Services at 818-710-6418."

"Informal Resolution"

"All parties involved in a potential grievance are encouraged to seek an informal remedy."

"The recommended steps for students to follow are:

"meeting directly with the faculty member(s) with whom the student has a problem"

"meeting with the department chair of the faculty member(s)"

"meeting with the department's Dean of Academic Affair" or

"meeting with the College Ombudsperson Ombudspersons are faculty members appointed by the Academic Senate to assist students in obtaining informal resolution of a grievance."