This course provides a foundation and an entry point into current debates in metaethics for students of philosophy. We will investigate questions such as: Do moral thoughts and moral sentences represent properties that exist in reality? If so, are these properties "natural" or sui generis? How can different theories of the subject matter of ethics account for moral knowledge? How can they account for the practical action-guiding role of moral judgments? We will emphasize some ways in which metaethics relates to other subfields of philosophy including metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and normative ethics. By co-teaching the course, the instructors aim to counterpose some differing metaethical views and provoke active debate in the seminar, while also providing a textbook-supported introduction to the field. No prior knowledge of metaethics is assumed
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
- demonstrate a clear understanding of some of the main positions in contemporary metaethics, explain some of the points of contention between them
- charitably reconstruct arguments the arguments of others, and summarise them clearly and succinctly
- explain some of the strengths and weaknesses of different positions in contemporary metaethics
- formulate and evaluate arguments for and against positions in metaethics, both orally and in writing
- draw connections between metaethics and other subfields of philosophy
30% mid-term exam; 70% final paper. Participation in the seminar will be taken into consideration in cases of borderline grades for each of the written assignments, and may result in a higher or lower grade.
All course requirements must be completed in order to earn a grade for the class.