Hume, Kant, & Nietzsche Philosophy 186e Spring 2023

The Course

We will discuss the moral philosophies of David Hume (1711–1776), Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). These thinkers agree that our motives are the primary focus of morality but they disagree about what those motives are. The fundamental moral motivation according to Hume is sympathy for others while Kant maintains it is respect for the law. Nietzsche accepts some parts of each of the other thinker’s views but takes a much darker view of morality. These are some of the questions that these philosophers address. Is a good person someone who cares about others or someone who does the right thing regardless of how he or she feels? Does morality require free will? Is morality conventional? Can we make sense of morality without God? Is morality valuable?

The materials make heavy demands on their readers’ analytical and interpretive skills. Our discussions and writing assignments will focus on the arguments in these works. That is where your analytical skills will come into play. Since we are reading works from different periods in history, we will also have to work hard at interpreting material that is written in ways that are unfamiliar and that reflects the concerns of different kinds of societies.

The syllabus has a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments; it also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class. Registered students can find all other materials on Sakai.

The Classes

Wed, Jan 18
Mon, Jan 23
Hume on Religious Ethics
Wed, Jan 25
Hume on Free Will
Mon, Jan 30
Hume on Reason and the Will
Wed, Feb 1
Hume on Reason and Morality
Mon, Feb 6
The Artificial Virtues
Wed, Feb 8
Hume on Conventions
Mon, Feb 13
Hume on Promises
Wed, Feb 15
Criticism of Hume on Promises
Mon, Feb 20
Defense of Hume on Promises
Wed, Feb 22
Hume on the Natural Virtues
Mon, Feb 27
Hume on Relativism
Wed, Mar 1
Hume and Utilitarianism
Mon, Mar 6
Kant’s Project
Wed, Mar 8
What is the Motive of Duty?
Mon, Mar 20
Kant on Reason
Wed, Mar 22
The Categorical Imperative
Mon, Mar 27
Discussion of Kant’s Cases
Wed, Mar 29
The Categorial Imperative Again
Mon, Apr 3
Kant on Free Will
Wed, Apr 5
A Kantian Approach to Famine
Mon, Apr 10
Kant on Religion and Morality
Wed, Apr 12
Criticism of Kant
Mon, Apr 17
Nietsche on Good and Bad
Wed, Apr 19
Nietzsche on Duty
Mon, Apr 24
Nietzsche on the Meaning of Life
Wed, Apr 26
Criticism of Nietzsche
Mon, May 1
What is Morality?
Wed, May 3
Picture day