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Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Fall 2009

SOC 308 • Life and Death Decisions

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46420 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
CMA A2.320

Course Description

Welcome to class. Most of our time will be focused on decisions related to our ability to control the life and death process -- issues of creation and termination. We will begin before birth and proceed through the life cycle turning to issues of in vitro fertilization, abortion, capital punishment, suicide, and euthanasia as we go.

We will explore the idea of moral imperatives, how these are violated and most importantly how we go about justifying the violation. Obviously, each of these issues involves emotion--and value-laden questions. You will not be evaluated on the specific positions you take, but on how carefully you construct your argument and how well you address positions other than your own. We are striving to improve how, not what, you think. The exams will, however, contain items to ensure you have read and thought about the materials assigned.

If there is an overall goal of the class, it is to identify common threads that run through all the issues addressed. Not easy, but interesting.

More specifically, topics covered in the course include the following:

- General Value and Definitional Issues: Two general topics will be addressed. The first deals with moral imperatives, what they are, how we routinely violate them, and how such violations are justified. The second will explore what has rather clumsily been called personhood.

- Issues of Creation: In this section of the class we will explore boundaries and dilemmas that surround our ability to control the life and death process. Example topics include in vitro fertilization, abortion, and neonatal care.

- Issues of Termination: Eugenics, euthanasia, and capital punishment will be explored.

I look forward to a lively semester.

Grading Policy

75% from exams (equally weighted), 25% from class participation.

Attendance is considered very important for the success of this class. My belief is that much is learned in class and related discussions. We all know you can choose to skip class. If you decide to miss class, well, I will be disappointed in you. Unfortunately, my disappointment, though real, is not all there is. If your schedule calls for you to miss more than four classes, you should probably drop the course. More than four unexcused absences will reduce your grade one full grade point (e.g., from an A to a B). Each subsequent absence will mean an additional grade point. I know this is nasty, but so am I.


No formal text. Assignments will be posted on "External Links" and "Assignments"


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