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.