PHIL 362.001 – Contemporary Ethical Theory

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Instructor: Alex Worsnip. This course meets TR 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. in CW 103.

We make moral judgments all the time – whenever we form views about whether we have been treated fairly, about whether we have particular duties and obligations to those around us, about whether the actions of others were justified or wrong, and so on. If you’ve taken an ethics class before, it probably involved looking at some of the moral questions that we form judgments about, and trying to figure out what the right answers to those moral questions are. But the practice of moral judgment and of doing moral philosophy also raises some more foundational questions: are there right answers to moral questions at all, and if so in what sense? Is there such a thing as “objective” moral truth? If so, (how) could we ever know what it is? Does our ordinary practice of making moral judgments presuppose that there is such an objective moral truth, or are our moral judgments more like expressions of emotion or approval? Finally, even if there is an objective moral truth, (why) does it have any legitimate authority over us – that is, (why) need we pay attention to it? These are the central questions of “metaethics”, and this class is devoted to investigating them.

Prerequisite: at least 1 PHIL course.