About This Course

Ethical theories attempt to give a general, abstract account of ethics. We will discuss three kinds of theories: consequentialist theories, deontological theories, and metaethical theories. The first two are theories about morality. They are concerned with what makes actions right or wrong and what makes people morally good or bad. Metaethical theories are theories about ethical theories, such as consequentialist and deontological theories. Metaethical theories are concerned with whether or not there are objective truths about ethics.

The materials in the class are analytical. That means we will try to learn about ethics through arguments. Students taking the class will have extensive opportunities to develop analytical skills, both in speaking and in writing.

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.

Class Notes

Wed, Jan 19
Overview
Mon, Jan 24
Singer on Famine
Wed, Jan 26
Shared Responsibility
Mon, Jan 31
Bentham’s Utilitarianism
Wed, Feb 2
Mill’s Hedonism
Mon, Feb 7
Mill’s Moral Theory
Wed, Feb 9
Utilitarianism and Integrity
Mon, Feb 14
Should You Vote?
Wed, Feb 16
The Repugnant Conclusion
Mon, Feb 21
How Do Rights Work?
Wed, Feb 23
Thomson’s Argument
Mon, Feb 28
Do Numbers Count?
Wed, Mar 2
Yes Numbers Count
Mon, Mar 7
Gewirth on Absolute Rights
Wed, Mar 9
Moral Luck
Mon, Mar 21
Kant on Famine
Wed, Mar 23
Gewirth’s Ethical Rationalism
Mon, Mar 28
The Fact-Value Distinction
Wed, Mar 30
Expressivism
Mon, Apr 4
Absurdity
Wed, Apr 6
Moral and Scientific Observations
Mon, Apr 11
Reply to Harman
Wed, Apr 13
Amoralism and Subjectivism
Mon, Apr 18
Moral Relativism
Wed, Apr 20
Defusing Subjectivism
Mon, Apr 25
The Objectivity of Good
Wed, Apr 27
Natural Foundations
Mon, May 2
Transcendental Foundations