Dr. Christine A. James


PHIL 4120 A Ethics and Public Policy MW 2:00pm-3:15pm WH 104 CRN 80381


This syllabus is available online, and may be updated, at


Office: 1203 Ashley Hall

Office Hours: MTWR 3:30pm-4:45pm, and after classes and by appointment as needed or requested.

Telephone: 259-7609

Mailbox: Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Office, Ashley Hall North Side First Floor

Fax: 259-5011

E-mail address:


Course content: This course provides an introduction to public policy and its relationship to ethical theory. Public policy is a discipline that analyzes contemporary moral issues using case examples and the historical ethical frameworks used in philosophy, including social and political philosophy and ethics. Any given case in public policy and ethics requires analysis from multiple points of view, and consideration of many different interested parties. What we think of as specifically an environmental issue also affects human welfare, fiscal management, business and development in a given region. Similarly, what we may assume to be a financial decision has impact on the environment including human and non-human agents. Public policy does not occur in a vacuum, and every issue in the class has impact and meaning within the other segments of the course.


During a course on public policy and ethics, students will address questions like:

What is the relationship between ethics and public policy? How can environmental values be balanced against economic development values in the United States and in developing nations? Is the purpose of public education to teach values? What obligation do major food-producing nations have to starving people in less-developed nations? How should care and treatment of HIV-related diseases be funded? Should the United States require population control activities as a condition of giving foreign aid to developing African nations? What is good public policy regarding abortion? Should the world's lender nations cooperate to relieve debt in burdened developing nations? What is the relationship between law and morality? How can the problems of housing and homelessness be effectively addressed? Is capital punishment good public policy? Should national tax systems favor "family values"? How can "ethics consultants" and "policy analysts" balance the competing claims of the "expert" and "advocate" roles? Should the United States implement a national health insurance plan?


Specific learning objectives include the development of a basic understanding of the following concepts and the ability to use these concepts in the analysis of American public policy. The learning outcomes listed below include reference to the University System of Georgia and Valdosta State University Learning Outcomes:


The Learning Outcomes for our PHIL 4120 are:

1. To understand the distinctions among the various philosophical approaches to public policy, including the historical nature of public policy ethics as an academic field.

2. To recognize how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to specific case studies in public policy literature, and to understand the ethics models and how to apply each to real world public policy issues.


3. To become conversant with understand the historical and structural context of public policy, as well as specific examples of the issues of race, class and gender as they influenced public policy’s development.

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5. To demonstrate the ability to analyze, in both oral and written discourse, selected public policy issues within an appropriate ethical framework and offer alternative resolutions to the problem.

6. To arrive at defensible conclusions of whether decision makers are applying ethics in the design of public policies and programs.

7. To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.

These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major by enabling students better to

1. To encourage an understanding of central issues, topics and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.

2. To develop students’ abilities to think, write, and speak critically and logically.

3. To enable students to challenge their own ideas and to develop self-understanding in the context of a diverse range of ideas which inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.

4. To enable students to engage in independent philosophical research, and to be responsible for communicating their understanding of the issues researched and developed, including a working familiarity with current research methods.

5. To incorporate philosophical positions in oral and written communications.

6. To critically outline and analyze a philosophical question.

Requirements: Class participation and attendance, two written examinations, two papers, various Blazeview assignments and discussions. Pop Reading Quizzes may also be given during the semester.



Required Texts:


Ethics and Public Policy: Method and Cases by William Bluhm, Robert A Heineman

Publisher: Prentice Hall (2006)

ISBN-10: 0131893432

ISBN-13: 978-0131893436


Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Publisher: Prentice Hall (2002)

ISBN-10: 0130418412

ISBN-13: 978-0130418418


Global Environmental Politics (From the Series Dilemmas in World Politics) by Pamela S. Chasek, Janet Welsh Brown, David Leonard Downie

Westview Press; Fourth Edition (2006)

ISBN-10: 0813343321

ISBN-13: 978-0813343327


Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector by David H. Rosenbloom, Robert S. Kravchuk, Richard M. Clerkin

Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education; 7th edition (2008)

ISBN-10: 0071263810

ISBN-13: 978-0071263818


Selected readings and academic journal articles as noted in the syllabus, usually by Adobe .pdf


            Be sure to do the reading before the class for which it is assigned. Please bring the relevant book(s) and/or article(s) with you to class, along with a designated notebook and some pens.


            (In addition, Philosophy and Religious Studies faculty encourage you to use Andrea A. Lunsford, St. Martin’s Handbook, 5th ed. which was required in ENGL 1101 and 1102 courses. These books are available for purchase at the VSU Bookstore. The St. Martin’s Handbook is shelved under ENGL 1101 and 1102.)


How grades will be calculated:


A          = 100 - 90%                              Class participation, attendance = 20%

B          = 89 - 80%                                2 Exams at 20% each = 40%

C          = 79 - 70%                                2 Papers at 20% each = 40%

D          = 69 - 60%                                Total = 100%

F          = 59 - 0%         


Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow “make up” work after the date an assignment or exam or paper is completed by the other members of the class.

I also make no promises about extra credit items, although I will routinely announce events on campus that can result in some extra credit points for you.


Exams and Papers: The exams in our class will be “short answer” written exams. Usually I ask six questions and a complete answer should be no less than four complete sentences. These exams are “objective” in the sense that the answers can be directly related to class discussions and the textbook. Reading and participating in class are important for your exam grades. The papers involve more creative and independent thinking. The papers should be no less than eight pages long, double spaced, in a standard 12 point font like Times/ Times New Roman. Expect to use the text and cite it with a consistent citation scheme (refer to the St. Martin’s Handbook you use in your English classes). “Use direct quotes!” Don’t use plastic paper covers, just a staple is fine. The ability to write and edit well-constructed academic essays is an important skill that will come in handy throughout your college career and beyond. Again, these papers must be typed, double-spaced, in a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times) with one-inch margins at the top and bottom of each page and 1.25-inch margins on either side (the default settings in Microsoft Word). The topic, subject matter, case study, and examples used in your papers are entirely up to you, but you should research them thoroughly. You should use the links below to help you with materials for your papers:


Here are some extra links, if you would like to use outside sources and secondary source material: (click on “Full Text Journal Title List”) and

The direct link for the database (Academic Search Complete) (Click on Academic Search Complete to open the first page with the search box.)

Attendance Policy: I do care that you attend class regularly. As you know, VSU policy is that missing 20% of class meetings results in an automatic grade of “F”. Faculty can also institute added attendance policies in their syllabi. Our class will have a 10% rule for absences. You can miss up to 10% of the class meetings with no grade penalty. 10% of our 30 class meetings is 3. On absence number 4, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one whole letter grade; on absence number 5, your final grade for the course will be reduced by two whole letter grades; on absence number 6, you will automatically fail the course. Be considerate of your fellow students – don’t be late, and don’t leave your cell phones and pagers on. Note that if you are regularly late to class, or leave class early, I will begin to count each as an absence. Please note that this policy makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.


Special Needs:

Students requiring classroom accommodations or modification because of a documented disability should discuss this need with me at the beginning of the semester. If you are such a student, but you are not registered with the Access Office, you should contact them too. Students requesting classroom accommodations or modifications because of a documented disability must contact the Access Office for Students with Disabilities located in room 1115 Nevins Hall. The phone numbers are 229-245-2498 (voice) and 229-219-1348 (tty).




Once you arrive at class, make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information: if you are confused, it is likely that others are too! The participation percentage you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the frequency and helpfulness of your contributions to class discussions and the care you take when peer editing.


Pop Reading Quizzes:

If I notice that there are many students who are not keeping up with the reading, I may periodically administer reading quizzes in class. These will not be announced in advance. No “make-up” quizzes will be given, and a missed quiz will result in a grade of zero. These quizzes are a solid reward for attending class, participating, and keeping up with the readings.



Online Discussions:


During certain weeks of the semester, you also will be expected to participate regularly in on-line discussions using Blazeview (formerly known as WebCT Vista). Use this opportunity to comment on the week’s readings, ask questions, raise objections, and respond to what others have written or said in class.


To use Vista, you will need access to a computer with an internet connection. Your computer and its software will also need to meet certain technical specifications. You are solely responsible for all technical matters. Although you do not need to be on campus in order to access Vista, it is worth remembering that computer labs are available at VSU. For technical help, please contact the VSU Help Desk (located in Odum Library, to the left of the Circulation Desk) at 229-245-4357 or by e-mail at


To log in to Vista and the course “shell,” go to the VSU homepage and click on the words Blazeview Login in the rectangle. Your username and password are the same as for your BlazeNet e-mail account. For instructions on getting started, go to:


When posting in an online bulletin board, like those in the Discussion area of Blazeview, you must (1) post at least one original message of your own, (2) read all the messages posted by others, and (3) respond substantively to at least one message from another student. Your postings are due the same day as the readings are listed in the schedule below (i.e., no later than 11:59 p.m. on the relevant dates.)


Your first message on a given topic should be about 200 words in length. That is roughly the length of two medium-sized paragraphs (e.g., this one and the next). Your second (response) posting can be about half that length, but it should be substantive (i.e., involving serious content). Try not to simply repeat what others have said already. Additional postings can be as long or as short as you desire. Be sure to give the first message an interesting title in the “Subject” line. This will help alert the rest of us as to what it will be about.


When you are ready to respond to someone else, do so by opening their message and hitting the “Reply” button. This will create a “thread” that others can add on to. Keep in mind that although it is fine to disagree with what someone else has said, it is important to do so in a way that is polite and constructive. If someone says something that makes you angry, pause and take a breath before firing off a reply! You can preview your message before you send it, but once you have hit “Post,” your message will no longer be editable.


Vista allows me to keep track of how many messages you have read and posted. I will monitor student activity and may from time to time add a message of my own.


Academic Honesty:

Members of the Valdosta State University faculty value honesty and integrity extremely highly and do not tolerate cheating of any kind. Anyone caught cheating will automatically fail the course. Cheating includes – but is not limited to – plagiarism, giving or receiving assistance on a quiz, having someone else do work on your behalf, doing work on someone else’s behalf, and working with a partner or in a group on an individual assignment. By enrolling in this course, you are in effect promising to maintain the bond of trust on which the professor-student relationship is based. In addition, VSU has a new Academic Honesty Policy. Here are links to the Academic Honesty Policies and Procedures, and the Report of Academic Dishonesty.



VSU policy mandates that all official communication by e-mail take place through VSU e-mail accounts or through the Blazeview Mail tool. Please check your VSU ( e-mail account regularly.


Note: This syllabus is not a legal contract; the content of this course is subject to revision by the professor.




8/13 M

Introduction to the class.


(Each date in the class after this one assumes that you will have read that day’s assigned discussion reading before class.)


What is Philosophy? Do Philosophy majors get jobs related to that major? Here are two pages to answer that:

8/15 W

Read Ethics and Public Policy: Method and Cases by William Bluhm, Robert A Heineman

Chapter 1: Ethics and Policymaking

Chapter 2: American Political Culture: Core Values, Interests, Conscience, Populism

8/20 M

Some paper tips:

Continue Bluhm, Chapter 2: Values and Generational Change     

8/22 W

Read Bluhm, Chapter 3: Frameworks for Ethical Public Policy Analysis: Kant and Mill

8/27 M

Read Bluhm, Chapter 4: Casuistry, 6: Health Care

8/29 W

Read Bluhm, Chapter 9: Biotechnology and Humanity, 10: The Natural Environment and Human Well-Being

9/3 M

No class, Labor Day Break

9/5 W

First Exam by Vista Blazeview

9/10 M

Read Global Environmental Politics (From the Series Dilemmas in World Politics) by Pamela S. Chasek, Janet Welsh Brown, David Leonard Downie

Chapter 1: The Emergence of Global Environmental Politics

Chapter 2: Actors in the Environmental Arena

9/12 W

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 2: Actors in the Environmental Arena

Cases and Articles:

9/17 M

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 3: The Development of Environmental Regimes; Case Studies

First Paper Due Today Be ready to discuss your papers in class.

9/19 W

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 3: The Development of Environmental Regimes; Case Studies


9/24 M

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 4: Effective Environmental Regimes, Obstacles and Opportunities

SPECIAL NOTE: Dr. James has been called in to serve jury duty the week of 9/24. She may be chosen for a jury on a case and she might not be, it's hard to predict these things, and usually a juror is not supposed to have a cell phone or other devices with them during their service. She plans to place a note on the door of West Hall 104 reminding everyone she is on jury duty. Please plan to come to the classroom and check for this note on the door. If the note is still there, she is still in jury duty, you should work in Blazeview, and class will not meet. If the note is off the door, she is back and class will happen. She will email classes in the evening on these dates even if she is still on jury, to keep all students up to date with the situation. Always remember new information and notes will be available to you in Blazeview. Thank you for your patience and cooperation in this matter.

9/26 W

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 4: Effective Environmental Regimes, Obstacles and Opportunities

Are you anticipating having a job interview? Here’s a document that might help!

10/1 M

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 5: Economics, Development, and the Future of Global Environmental Politics

10/3 W

Read Chasek et al;, Chapter 5: Economics, Development, and the Future of Global Environmental Politics

10/8 M

Read Rosenbloom’s Public Administration, Part I, Chapter 1

Definitions, Concepts, and Setting: The Practice and Discipline of Public Administration: Competing Concerns

10/10 W

Read Rosenbloom, Chapter 2

The American Administrative State: Development and Political Environment

10/15 M

Fall Break No Class

10/17 W

Read Rosenbloom, Chapter 3

Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations: The Structure of the American Administrative State

10/22 M

Read Rosenbloom, Chapter 4

Second paper handout page:

10/24 W

Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff, Part 1: School Vouchers

10/29 M

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 2: Government Support of Arts

10/31 W

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 3: Pornography and the Law

11/5 M

   Dr. James will bring in items

11/7 W

    Dr. James will bring in items

11/12 M

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 4: Same Sex Marriage

May, Dericka, Tisha, Rynada (send me an email if I misspelled your name )

11/14 W

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 5: Drug Legalization

Natonia, Melody, Brandy, Shelley (send me an email if I misspelled your name )

11/19 M

Second Paper due today

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 9: Affirmative Action

Victor, Brittany, Brittany, Aurielle (send me an email if I misspelled your name )

11/21 W

Thanksgiving Break, no class

11/26 M

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 6: Gun Control
Shaun, Graham, Tullis, John, Jefferson (send me an email if I misspelled your name )

11/28 W

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 8: Immigration
Sydny, Abdul, Tim, Tanya, Alle (send me an email if I misspelled your name )

12/3 M

Read Cahn and Kasachkoff, Part 7: Death Penalty

Harrison, Danielle, Chris, Elan (send me an email if I misspelled your name )


Review day for final exam. Final exam date is listed below and underlined.



The last official class day for all Fall Semester classes is Monday 12/3.



Our official exam time is Wednesday, December 5 at 12:30pm-2:30pm.  If you chose not to do a presentation, you must take the final exam in the Assessment Tool in Blazeview for that possible 20% of your final grade.  Be sure to complete it by the final exam time.


If you are not sure about how the final exam times are assigned for your other courses, use this link, and check the Final Exam Schedule on page 3 of the Registrar’s Fall 2009 Guide document:


Special Pilot Project: Online Course Evaluations


Student evaluations are extremely important in helping faculty members plan and revise their courses.  Rather than completing these evaluations during class time, students will need to access evaluation forms via BANNER and complete them in a period during the last few weeks of class.  Please take the time to complete this important evaluation (or opt out of providing an evaluation) during the designated period.  If you do not do so, you will not be able to access the grade for this class, scheduled to be posted on the Monday after the final examination days. They will be in Banner under Answer a Survey.

At the end of the term, all students will be expected to complete an online Student Opinion of Instruction survey (SOI) that will be available on Banner (where you registered for classes). Students will receive an email notification through their VSU ( email address when the SOI is available (generally at least one week before the end of term.) SOI responses are anonymous to instructors/administrators. Instructors will be able to view only a summary of all responses two weeks after they have submitted final grades. While instructors will not be able to view individual responses or access any of the responses until after final grade submission, they will be able to see which students have or have not completed their SOIs, and student compliance may be considered in the determination of the final course grade. Some professors give extra credit for completing the SOI and some do not, please do not pressure any faculty member about giving extra credit - it's an individual instructor choice. These compliance and non-compliance reports will not be available once instructors are able to access the survey and a timetable for this term is available at


The Administration has not yet opened the online SOI forms, and Dr. James will update the class with instructions when they are available.



Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott


1. Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.


2. Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book. Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.


3. Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings. Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.


4. Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class. I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.


5. For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section. What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?


6. When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas. This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer. And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!


7. Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give. Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.


8. Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.


9. If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.


10. Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.


11. Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.


12. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand. Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.


13. Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!


14. Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.


Tips about writing in Philosophy and Religious Studies courses:


1. A really great website for students about how to write academic papers is maintained by the Dartmouth Writing Program:

In addition to lots of helpful general information, it has special pages on "Writing the Religion Paper" and "Writing the Philosophy Paper."


2. A great website that explains the importance of critically evaluating web resources -- always a problem area for students – is maintained by Robert Harris:


3. I strongly encourage everyone in our class buy a copy of the St. Martin's Handbook, VSU Edition. This is the writing manual used in ENGL 1101 and 1102, which all VSU students are required to take. In other words, you should all already own a copy. It explains all the basics -- e.g., how to cite sources, etc. By recommending students own a copy, I'm hoping to emphasize the continuity between your writing courses and the rest of your education, in the hope that you don't just sell the book back and forget the basics.