Phil 231, Media Ethics: Philosophy
Dr. Achim D. Koeddermann, ext. 3037 Office: Fitzelle 507, come and see!
Office Hours: close to the sky, in the clouds, where philosophers should be): Tu 1.15-2 p.m.;
Th. 8:30-10:30 a.m. & by appointment
COURSE DESCRIPTION: An introductory course open to students of all fields, designed to
provide an overview of basic concepts of ethics as applied to the media.
Format: Some lecture, but most sessions will involve intense class participation and
discussion. Students will be challenged to think for themselves - and to reflect on their own
positions. This course has both a historical and a problem-orientation. It will touch upon major
moral questions and traditions from Ancient Greece to the present. Use and misuse of technology
ranging from script to TV and Internet will be discussed. If we succeed, we will develop new
codes of ethics together.
Degree of Difficulty: Philosophy is a demanding discipline - and I cannot pretend that it is easy. But it can be inspiring, exciting, and stimulating - if we all work together. I need YOUR help and expertise in the modem fields of media application.
Requirements: Students and professor are required to work together. This presupposes that both are present, both in mind and in person. I expect you to attend all classes. I also expect you to prepare all classes in the Medium of your choice: Printed, Seen on Screen, I expect you to help me watch for moral problems in the (mass)-media.
Grades: 3 quizzes; one short paper (5-12 pp.) with class presentation; one hourly; final; classparticipation, homework, cooperational meetings and attendance. Each of these is worth approximately 1/5 of the final grade. There will be no make-up exams. Quizzes not taken at the proper time count as E. Papers and homework assignments will be lowered 1/2a letter grade for each day they are late.
Intellectual integrity is TBE foundational value on which the whole academic process depends. If you are not certain about the parameters of consequences of academic dishonesty, please consult the student handbook. This course builds on mutual TRUST.
Television as Moral Medium and Factor A technically dominated society must not take facts for granted. It has to consider the rules for the responsible use of technology. Technic alone cannot be blamed for any development. Either love or hatred of technology may be suggested as a solution. But it is only the use or misuse of technology that determines its value. Due to media's dominating influence, we have to develop new ways of caring for its future. A blunt rejection of the modem technologies of the mass-media is as unacceptable as their glorification. Responsible use, both by the spectators and the producers/distributors is the necessary aim of a media-ethical approach which goes beyond the differences of classical ethical positions. Responsible agents have to take into account not only the foreseeable, but also the unforeseeable dangers for future generations. The class will end with an overview of the Imperative of Responsibility shared by a1l. It can help us find a common foundational norm for an "ethics for the technological age" (Jonas). Tbrough literature, case studies, video examples and discussions of their own experiences, students will be encouraged to recognize, analyze and formulate critical judgments concerning the responsible use and control of the media.
This course fulfills the Writing Intensive requirement and is classified as Moral and Ethical Perspectives for the basic curriculum. The assignments are: two written exams of six pages each, one independent paper (10-15 pages) which will be presented in class, and four extensive written homework assignments.
2. Specific Course Objectives
- To introduce issues and theories concerning responsible use of the media.
- To examine how those theories correspond with existing phdosDphical patterns and to elaborate differences as well as possible routes of reconciliation.
- To enable students to deal critically with problematic material (,-..g., violence, sex and advertisement):
a) in everyday use
b) in classrooms
- To built a bridge between theory and practice: The use of video will help students develop a feeling for the application of critical reasoning skills and to relate theoretical knowledge to practical use.
3. List of topics to be covered and approximate amount of am devoted to each topic:
Part One: From the old to the new medias and why
we need ethics today more than ever
WEEK I. a) General Introduction: Which philosophical questions are linked with ethical decisions in modem mass media?
reading: 7he Journalist in Plato's Cave, Jay Neumann, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, Rutherford, NJ, 1989, 208 p. Excerpt (library reading). Excerpts from Plato: 7he Cave, against writing, against script. Ethical decision and ethical theory: Which film 'should' we watch? Is our love seat a cave?
WEEK 2 b) Watergate, the Iran-Contra
Affair and why we need ethics:
"Without high ethical ideals a newspaper not only is stripped of its splendid possibilities, but may become a positive danger to the community. * Joseph Pulitzer, Planning a School of Journalism, 1904.
The American Society of Newspaper
Editors: "Canon of Journalism", since 1923.
WEEK 3 c) The place of the media
in democracy: From freedom of press to the division of powers. Are the media
today the 4th power in the state?
Readings: Mat is Enlightenment, Kant
On the Division of Powers, Montesquieu, contrasted with:
"The concept of democracy for the consumer, the chances for a better world" (Megatrends, John Naisbit, London, 1984, p.22 ff'- Ten new directions transforming our lives.)
List of ethical values in communication - from truthfulness to respect for people.
WEEK 4 d) The step from print
to TV: Good Bye Gutenberg.
Readings: 7he Gutenberg Gakay, Marshall McLuhan, Toronto, 1962 (the making of typographic man), excerpts.
The concept of technics as a mere tool: discussion of McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message." Media expose, video example: MTV and how it can be "unethical" to watch it.
(Arnold Gehlen, Moral and llypermoral, Pluralistic Ethics, Frankfurt 1969/del Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom, 1983)
WEEK 5 e) Is there anybody
Reading: Cultural Literacy, E. D. Hirsch, excerpts.
"Teleliteracy": Taking Television Seriously, David Bianculli, NY, 1993
Excerpts from Plato against writing and rhetoric (Phaedro/Gorgias).
WEEKS 6 f) Is advertisement
ethical? (Seventh week, second half) Video: "Through advertising,
& 7 every society gets the TV it deserves?", Jerry Mander, Advertising: "The Standard
Gauge Railway, in Four arguments for the ELIMINATION of Television, NY, 1978, p.
Part Two: Classical ethical approaches confronted
with today's media experiences: New Ethics for New Ages?
WEEK 8 g) Philosophical position 1:
Responsibility for your intentions: Kant's categorical imperwive. (Further
reading: the Dialectic in Journalism, John C. Merrill, Louisiana
State Univ. Press, 1989, towards a responsible use of freedom, excerpts.)
Which duties has TV?
WEEK 9 h) Philosophical position 2:
Utilitarianism or responsibility for the results.
Example: Is propaganda for a good cause allowed (AIDS-spot, Benetton-Advertisement).
WEEK 10 i) Media Critical position: The lack of orientation.
Reading: No Sense of Place, Josua Meyrowitz, NY, 1984 (The impact of electronic media on social behavior).
'Philosophy of speed': Paul Virillo or why we might lack time for ethics. Video sample: NBC's "The Civil War" series (Stephen Singer, 'The Midas Touch of 'The Civil War" in: Current, October 8, 1990), CNN: Gulf War.
WEEK 11 j) Mankind as slave of entertainment: A no more splendid isolation.
Reading: Amusing Ourselves to Death, Ned Postman, NY, 1985 (and excerpts of recent writings), video example.
Film: "The Hero"
WEEK 12 k) Violence and Information: Between the duty to report mid the danger to encourage.
From Facts to Fiction: Reality TV or Rambo? What do we have to know?
Reading: The Cult of Information, Theodore Roszak, London, 1986 (the folklore of computers and the true art of thinking).
Who has the right to know how
Videos: - Rodney King or who is responsible for L.A.?: Should 'truth' always be seen on screen?
Excerpts from movies: How much
violence can we digest?
"OUTRAGEAOUS VIDEOS" Blood and Information on HBO.
WEEK 13 l) Is sex to be banned from TV? When is it allowed? Is it "ethical" to wam the audience
before a movie is broadcasted? (Second half of the 13th week)
WEEK 14 m) Cyberspace or the future has started.
Approach to responsibility for the future.
Reading: Imperative Of Responsibiliiy, Hans Jonas, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1985 (in search for an ethics for the technological age).
End of the course.