Philosophy 336: Ethics
Spring Semester, 2008
Office: Arnold 253
Office Hours: MW 11-12:30 AM, Tuesday and Thursday, 11-12 (or by appointment). Note:
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford)
John Troyer, editor, The Classical Utilitarians: Bentham and Mill (Hackett)
Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge)
Claudie Card, editor, Feminist Ethics (Kansas)
Photocopies of articles, to be made available on Blackboard
Please Note: Always bring the book we are reading to class. ALWAYS.
Our aim in this course will be to examine in detail philosophical ethics. We will accomplish this by exploring some of the most important texts in this philosophical tradition.
Perhaps surprisingly, our approach to these texts will not be chronological. In the first section of the course, in fact, we will be exploring some recent work in meta-ethics. In this preliminary portion of the course, our focus will be on the nature, scope, and aim of ethical theory. What exactly is an ethical theory intended to do? How are we to justify ethical theories? In what ways is an ethical theory different from a theory in the physical sciences, and does this difference matter in assessing the objectivity of ethical theory? Are there moral facts, or are ethical claims merely emotive nonsense? Assessing these issues will also allow us to grapple with the issue of ethical relativism in a philosophically sophisticated way.
Following our (albeit preliminary) grappling of these questions in meta-ethics, we will turn to the three most sophisticated (and influential) ethical theories in the history of philosophy. We will devote significant time to virtue ethics, utilitarianism, and deontology, critically assessing what these theories get right and what they get (sometimes disastrously) wrong. The bulk of the course will be spent engaging these theories, with reference to particular ethical issues along the way.
Finally, we will look at a recent critique of some of the traditional brands of ethical theory from feminist philosophers.
· Several short assignments and quizzes (20%)
· Two 3-4 page papers (20% each)
· One substantive term paper (8-10 pages), which can incorporate and develop earlier writing assignments (30%)
· One class presentation (10%)
I will assign topics for the first two papers and the short writing exercises, but the term paper is to be written on a topic of your own choosing. While term papers can build on the shorter writing assignments, they are expected to be substantially developed, and go well beyond the exegetical task of the short papers.
Please note: I must approve all paper topics.
- The Classical Utilitarians: Bentham and Mill, Bentham, 8-22, and Mill's Utilitarianism, 95-98, The Classical Utilitarians, Mill's Utilitarianism, 98-115.
- The Classical Utilitarians, Mill's Utilitarianism, 98-115, The Classical Utilitarians, Mill's On Liberty
- Wisnewski, "A Wittgensteinian Rethinking of Mill's Utilitarianism" The Classical Utilitarians, Mill's Utilitarianism, 115-127.
- Animal Rights?
- Kant, Groundwork, Section I, Kant, Groundwork, Section I, Kant, Groundwork, Section II
- Kant, Groundwork, Section II, Kant, Groundwork, Section II, Kant, Groundwork, Section II
- Wisnewski, ""A Wittgensteinian Rethinking of Kant"
- Feminist Ethics: Projects, Problems, Prospects Alison M. Jaggar (78-106), A Response to Lesbian Ethics: Why Ethics? Marilyn Frye (52-59) Philosophy is not a Luxury, Ruth Ginsberg(126-145), Why Terrorism is Morally Problematic, Bat-Ami Bar On (107-125)
- The Social Self and the Partiality Debates, Marilyn Friedman(161-179), What's Wrong with Bitterness? Lynne McFall(146-160)
- Gender and the Complexity of Moral Voices Michele M. Moody-Adams (195-212), Integrity and Radical Change, Victoria M. Davion (180-194)
- Whom Can Women Trust? Annette C. Baier (233-245), The Virtue of Feeling and the Feeling of Virtue, Elizabeth V. Spelman (213-232)
- Concluding Thoughts (the very idea!)
- Virtue Ethics
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I, 1-27
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, 28-47
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book III, 48-78
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, 137-158
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VII, 159-183
- Feminist Ethics: A Contemporary Perspective
Christine Pierce, "Postmodernism and Other Skepticisms" 60-78
Bat-Ami Bar On, "Why Terrorism is Morally Problematic" 107-125
Michele M. Moody-Adams, "Gender and the Complexity of Moral Voices, 195-212.
Elizabeth V. Spelman, "The Virtue of Feeling and the Feeling of Virtue," 213-232.