PHI523 Problems of Philosophy: Topics in Normative Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Moral Psychology, and Moral Methodology
Course website: http://www.princeton.edu/~msmith/mycourses/PHI523-Spring-2012.htm
We will work through some related problems in philosophy of action, moral psychology, meta-ethics, and normative ethics. The aim is rather ambitious, namely, to show that we can derive two moral principles from abstract facts about rationality and then to show how those two moral principles apply in a range of concrete moral situations. In the course of doing all of this a contrast will be made with the approaches taken by Anscombe, on the one hand, and Kant, on the other. Guest speakers will introduce the material on Anscombe and Kant. Below you will find a provisional set of weekly topics and readings. Note that these may change during the course of the semester, depending on what we manage to get through, so you should check the course website before you attend each week, as I will update this document as necessary. The reading for each seminar must be done prior to the seminar. Password-protected readings will be made available on the course website. Email me for the password. Those wishing to get a unit have the option of doing a take-home exam or writing an essay.
Wednesday 8 February 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #1: The problematic nature of moral philosophy and the way forward
Guest Speaker: Jimmy Doyle (IAS)
"Anscombe's 'Modern Moral Philosophy'"
Background reading: G. E. M. Anscombe "Modern Moral Philosophy"
Wednesday 15 February 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #2: The distinct explanatory roles played by desire, belief, and the exercise of the capacity to be rational when we act
Background reading: Hempel "Rational Action" reprinted in Norman S. Care and Charles Landesman (eds) Readings in the Theory of Action (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1968); Davidson "Actions, Reasons, and Causes" Journal of Philosophy, 60, 1963; Davidson "Hempel on Explaining Action" reprinted in Davidson's Essays on Actions and Events (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Friday 17 February 2012 2:00pm-4:00pm 201 Marx Hall (NOTE SPECIAL DAY/TIME)
Topic #3: Is a successfully derived categorical imperative first-personally self-authorizing?
Guest Speaker: Seiriol Morgan (Bristol)
"The Self-Authorization of the Fact of Reason"
NB: Seiriol Morgan will give his talk via video link.
Wednesday 22 February 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #4: A puzzle about internal reasons
Background reading: Williams "Internal and External Reasons" reprinted from his Moral Luck (Cambridge: CUP, 1981).
Wednesday 29 February 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #4: continued. Background reading: Humberstone "Wanting, Getting, Having"; Railton "Toward a Unified Theory of Rationality in Belief, Desire, and Action - Condensed"
Wednesday 7 March 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #5: Are there reasons for wanting?
Background reading: Scanlon "Reasons", Chapter One of his What We Owe To Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Scanlon "Appendix on Williams" from his What We Owe To Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Thomson "Reasons for (Mental States)"
Wednesday 14 March 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #6: Constitutivism about rationality
Wednesday 28 March 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #6: continued.
Wednesday 4 April 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #7: Reasons for wanting, values, and reasons for action
Background reading: Smith "The Ideal of Orthonomous Action"; Smith "Two Kinds of Consequentialism"
Wednesday 11 April 2012 (NO CLASS THIS WEEK)
Wednesday 18 April 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #8: Why many values and reasons for action are social in nature
Background reading: Scanlon "Promises and Practices"; Kolodny and Wallace "Promises and Practices Revisited"
Wednesday 25 April 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #9: Why many values and reasons for action have a second-personal character
Background reading: Darwall "Authority and Second-Personal Reasons for Acting"; Wallace "Reasons, Relations, and Commands: Reflections on Darwall"
Wednesday 2 May 2012 12:30pm-3:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Topic #10: The values and reasons for action at stake in love and friendship
Background reading: Kolodny "Love as Valuing a Relationship"; Cocking and Kennett "Friendship and Moral Danger"
OPTIONAL EXTRA READING ON THICK CONCEPTS:
Daniel Y. Elstein and Thomas Hurka "From Thick to Thin: Two Moral Reduction Plans"
Carefully read the instructions, as the requirements for graduate students and undergraduates are very different.