Philosophy 3410
Computer Ethics

Spring 2018

Instructors Erin Chambers (
  Jim McCollum (
Meeting time Tuesday and Thursday 11-12:15
Location 120 Ritter Hall
Office hours Tu/Th 10:00-11:00 in Ritter 357 (both instructors)
  or by appointment
Course materials available on-line on either Moodle or Perusall
  • Course goal

    To be able to analyze computing technologies for morally problematic issues and develop ethical arguments for the acceptable/unacceptability of these using taking all stakeholders into account.

  • Learning outcomes

    By the end of this course students will be able to:

    • use tools of moral disclosure and issue definition to identify moral issues raised by new digital technologies.
    • describe the ways that the ethics of respect, virtue ethics, and consequentialism can contribute to moral disclosure and cyberethical evaluation.
    • articulate objections and relevant considerations posed by perspectives other than their own, and can fashion their arguments to have broad appeal across perspectives.
    • construct cogent moral arguments based on research into cyberpractices, using the framework developed in the course.
    • demonstrate a good faith ability to contribute to the class as a community of inquiry.
  • Major topics

    The course will be broken in a few units:

    • Professional ethics and issue identification
    • Application of normative ethics to computer ethics
    • A dialogical approach to addressing cyberethical practices
    • Defining moral concepts
    • Group projects and individual papers
  • Course mechanics

    For the first half of the course, your primary out-of-class activities will involved preparation for the next class meeting. During the second half off the course you will also be working on a group project and final paper.

    • Prior to class

      Being prepared to class meetings will be the responsibility of everyone in the class. This consists of

      • Perusall readings These reading will be from Cogent Cyberethics by William Rehg and other materials provided by the instructors. These readings are the primary course content on computer ethics and our method for analyzing moral issues that arise in the use of computing technology. To be prepared for class, you need to go through these readings carefully as they will be the basis for what we will be doing in class.

        All course readings will be available on Perusall. As part of the reading assignment, you can discuss the readings on-line and ask questions of your classmates. To receive full credit for the readings you must actively participate the discussion.

        You can access the readings in Moodle. Your user name is your full SLU email address (/jane.student/ Use the "forgot your password" link to create a new passowrd by sending an email to your username.

      • Good faith papers Short papers (1-2 pages) will be assigned on a regular basis. These papers will explore issues that come up in the readings, case studies we wish to examine or practicing steps in our method of ethical analysis. These papers will used as starting points for in-class discussions. These papers are to be turned in on Moodle Your user name is your full SLU email address ( Reset the password on first use.
      • Material review In order to maximize learning in the classroom in addition to the readings and good faith papers, you should review your notes from the previous class and any reading that we are in the process of discussing.
    • During class

      Class time will be devoted to achieving a higher level of understanding of the materials and developing skills in ethical argumentation through examining case studies. We will be doing a variety of discussions, individual and group work during class to work towards our goals. It is imperative that you come to class prepared to fully engage the material.

    • After class

      To assist your learning, we recommend after each class that you write summaries of the important points that we covered, what you learned and what you find difficult or confusing. Studies have shown that spending 10-15 minutes on these reflection activities improve learning and knowledge retention and increase performance on exams and other graded work.

    • Exams

      We will have two midterm exams during the first half of the semester. They are tentatively scheduled for September 25 and October 18

    • Group projects and final papers

      During the second half of the semester, you will be put in groups to study a single ethical issue in-depth. You will be writing a preliminary report and will give a group presentation near the end of the semester on what your group has learned. Afterwards, you will be writing individual papers that expand on certain issues or questions that arise in your group project.


    Grades will be calculated as follows:

    Pre-class activities 20%  
    In-class activities 10%  
    Midterms I & II 15% each  
    Group presentation 10%  
    Final paper 30%  
    • Final grades

      Based on their cumulative scores students will be guaranteed at least the following grades:

      93% - 100% A   77% - 80% C+
      90% - 93% A-   73% - 77% C
      87% - 90% B+   70% - 73% C-
      83% - 87% B   60% - 70% D
      80% - 83% B-      

      At the discretion of the instructors, students can be given a higher grade than specified by the standard curve but never lower.

    • Pre-class activities

      Both Perusall readings and good faith papers will be graded on a two point scale. Students who make exceptional observations will receive 3 points. The lowest 10% of pre-class assignments will be dropped. No late assignments will be be excepted except for extreme documented situations.

    • In-class activities

      Each in-class activity will be graded on a 0-1 scale. You will receive full credit if you are actively engaged in the exercise. The lowest 10% of pre-class assignments will be dropped. You must be present to receive these points and will only be excused for extreme documented situations.

    • Exams, project and paper

      Will be critically evaluated to judge your mastery of the course material.

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