ETHICS/Service Learning (0122-400-07)


Professor Yoko Arisaka

Class: T/Th 11:10a-12:25p, LM 268
Office: Campion D6 (right by the Philosophy Department)
Office Hours: Th 1:30-3p
Office Phone: 422-6424 (422-6543 for the department)


Course Description:

This course is designed as a Service Learning Course (see below).  It also fulfills Area H1 of the GEC requirement (Philosophy and Theology).   The course investigates a wide range of ethical theories and contemporary ethical debates—equality and discrimination, social obligation of the care for the sick and the homeless, and global issues such as war and hunger debates.  We will examine both classical and contemporary writings of ethical philosophers from various backgrounds.

Service Learning:

“Service Learning” involves three elements:  A classroom element (learning theory), a service element (community work), and a process of reflection that connects all the aspects together. In this course you will learn the representative ethical theories, but ethics is not simply a question of theories.  Ethics, as it is involved in our lives, is a part of our everyday, living concern as human beings dealing with other human beings.  Therefore, it is essential that all the theories learned in this class are connected to real-life experiences.  This is an essential aspect of learning, as ethical individuals who can deal with real-life issues at hand in a responsible and informed manner.  In order to achieve this goal, in addition to the in-class readings and discussions, in this course the students are required to volunteer or intern at various agencies in the city.  The requirement for the course, per student, is 20 hours of community work and keep a journal which reflects your understanding of how the theories are related to real-life ethical dilemmas and debates. The “reflections” will be used in class along with theory.

The students may volunteer at any of the selected agencies—a partial list is attached to this syllabus, so please take a look.  At the beginning of the course we will discuss the organizations more in depth, and you will be divided into groups.  In the first two weeks of the semester, we will set up a schedule for each of you (you can begin early if you already have a place you volunteer, etc).  The Office of Community Service and Service Learning is also a good source for various working opportunities.  We will participate in April Action together as a course—details later but please mark your calendar--it will be the first Saturday in April.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the semester, a student should be able to:
1. Distinguish various ethical theories and identify their main features.
2. Analyze a practical situation in terms of these theories.
3. Apply theoretical knowledge to real-life scenarios for evaluation.
4. Develop appreciation for “ethics in real life,” by participating in community service
5. Cultivate a living sense of social justice by participating in community service


Ethics by Barbara MacKinnon  (Wadsworth)
Additional reading material will be distributed (a Reader).

Course Requirements and Grading:

1.  Service Learning Work and Journal (30%):  As mentioned above, you are expected to do 20-hours of community work outside the classroom for this semester.  (IF this is absolutely difficult for you, for various reasons such as your regular work or family obligations, please let me know—perhaps there is a way to combine your current work/family and this requirement.)  You will keep a journal of every participation.  Your journal will contain factual information about what you did, where, and when, as well as your personal reflections and how you see your work has captured some of the theoretical points discussed in class.

2.  Mid-Semester Exam on the Theories (20%):  This will be a take-home exam on various questions about ethical theories.  A study-guide will be provided.

3.  Group Presentation on the Service Work (15%):  At the end of the semester, you will present your community-work experiences to the class, together with others who worked at the same service.  It will contain your personal reflections, ethical theories which are relevant, and how the experience has enhanced (or not enhanced) your learning of ethics.

4.  Final Position Paper (25%):  Based on both the in-class discussions and your service work, you will develop a final paper, defending a particular ethical position, on a particular issue.  There will be a handout on the details after the 10th week of the course.

5.  Class Participation (10%):   There will be much in-class discussion, using your reflection journals, as well as debates on various positions. 

Course Schedule:

Week 1:  Introduction.  What is Ethics?  What is Service Learning?  Chapter 1: Ethical Reasoning; On the Ethics of Care (Chapter 7); Handout, “Soul of a Citizen” and “The Call of Service”

Theory: I: Character- and Virtue Ethics

Week 2:  Chapters 6 and 7: Aristotle and the Feminist Ethics of Care; More on Service Work (sign-up)

Week 3:  Alasdair MacIntyre and Confucianism (Reader)

Community Service Work begins.  Begin your journal.

Theory II: Deontological Theories

Week 4:  Chapter 5: Kant’s Moral Theory

Week 5:  Kant continued, Divine Command Theories (Reader)

Theory III: Teleological Theories

Week 6: Chapter 4: Utilitarianism (Mill)

Week 7: Ethical Egoism; Midterm on Theories will be handed out.

Week 8: Chapter 6: Natural Law Theory; Reader (Aquinas), Midterm due at the end of the 8th week

Issues and Debates

Week 9: Chapter 2: On Ethical Relativism

Week 10: Spring Break

Week 11: Chapter 11: Equality and Discrimination (Reader, “Is Affirmative Action Morally Justified?”)

Week 12: Equality and Discrimination continued

Week 13: Society and Obligation: Homelessness, Hunger Issues, and Care for the Elderly (Reader, “Does Society Have a Moral Obligation to Care for the Less Well-Off?”)

Week 14: Above Issues Continued

Week 15: Class Presentations and Discussion; Final Paper Topic Suggestions will be handed out

Week 16:  Class Presentations and Discussion
Journal Due

Final Position Paper Due:  Thursday, May 16, 4pm.

Policy on Class Attendance, Make-up, Service Learning Attendance, and Plagiarism:

You are expected to attend every class.  I will accept valid excuses (such as illness, and other events completely out of your control).  It is your responsibility to contact me if you must miss class.  If you miss part of the 10-hour service work requirement, a percentage will be taken out from that portion of the grade.  (In other words, if you do not do any community work, you will miss the entire 30% of your grade, which will at best be a C+.)


Plagiarism consists of presenting someone else’s work as your own (quoting from journals, books, Internet, and other sources without due reference).  It would be considered a ground for receiving a failing grade for the course and you would also risk being dismissed from the university, as the case will be reported to the Dean’s Office and they will report to the Provost’s Office.  Don’t even try, as it is easier to write your own material, and in addition I am very good at discovering if something might be plagiarised and where you have gotten your material, and if I find out, I will certainly report your case.


Possible Service Opportunities:


St. Anthony’s Dining Room

Project Open Hand

San Francisco Food Bank

Coalition on Homelessness

Please visit the Office of Service Learning and Community Action



Service Learning Report/journal Guidelines




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