PHIL 860.001 – Research Seminar in Moral Theory
Instructors: Geoffrey Sayre-McCord. This course meets M 3:00 – 5:30 p.m. in CW 208.
The Nature of Normative Concepts: This seminar has two purposes: (i) to canvass extent accounts of what is distinctive and important about normative concepts and (ii) to identify — or, as I am thinking now, develop — an adequate account. A big part of the challenge will be to identify what an account needs to do in order to be adequate. There is a surprising amount of useful work to be done when it comes to characterizing these criteria of adequacy and also when it comes to developing a plausible view that satisfies them. Predictably, given the wide role of normative concepts, we’ll be looking at theoretical reasoning as well as practical reasoning, at thick concepts and thin, at epistemology no less than ethics. In the process it may emerge that a single account of normative concepts is unavailable, or that the very idea of a normative concept is wrongheaded. But I am optimistic on both counts. Still, I am going in to the seminar not so much with the conviction that the optimism will be vindicated as with confidence that discovering whether, and to what extent, it is, will be important.