This course will introduce three main features of moral philosophy: (i) the central themes of metaethics — the study of the metaphysics and epistemology of ethical thought or discourse; (ii) the idea that morality is based on reason and that it is based on sentiment; (iii) the main ethical theories which dominate contemporary philosophy: consequentialism (including utilitarianism), Kantianism (or deontology), and virtue ethics. These are theories in what is known as normative ethics: theories about what we ought to do, or how we should live.
By the end of this course, students who have done the required work will:
- understand the metaethical positions of realism, relativism, subjectivism;
- understand the views about the foundations of morality in reason, or in sentiment;
- understand the main types of normative ethical theories: consequentialist theories, deontological theories, and virtue theories.
Two-year Philosophy MA students will be graded according by an in-class written final exam, taken as part of the Theoretical and Practical Philosophy exam scheduled for the end of spring term. All other students taking the class for credit must submit a 2,500 word final paper on a topic agreed in advance with the instructor. The grade for the class will be the grade earned for the final paper, though in exceptional cases extra credit may be awarded for participation throughout the term.