PHI524 Systematic Ethics: Seminars on topics in Moral Psychology, Meta-Ethics, and Normative Ethics
Fall 2012
Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit, and Michael Smith
Course website: http://www.princeton.edu/~msmith/mycourses/PHI524-Fall-2012.htm


We will work through some related problems in moral psychology, meta-ethics, and normative ethics. Below you will find a provisional set of weekly seminar topics and readings. Note that these may change during the course of the semester, depending on what we manage to get through. You should check the course website before you attend each week, as this document will be updated whenever 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 Smith for the password. Those wishing to get a unit should discuss their plans with either Jackson, Pettit, or Smith, depending on who it would be most appropriate for them to work with.

Wednesday 19 September 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 1: The philosophy of Samuel Scheffler I
Reading: Samuel Scheffler "Valuing" reprinted in his Equality and Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012)

Wednesday 26 September 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 2: The philosophy of Samuel Scheffler II
Reading: Samuel Scheffler "The Normativity of Tradition" reprinted in his Equality and Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) (also Samuel Scheffler "The Good of Toleration" reprinted in his Equality and Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012))

Wednesday 3 October 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 3: The philosophy of Samuel Scheffler III
Reading: Samuel Scheffler "Morality and Reasonable Partiality" reprinted in his Equality and Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) (also Samuel Scheffler "Relationships and Responsibilities" Philosophy and Public Affairs (26) 1997, pp.189?209)

Wednesday 10 October 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 4: Samuel Scheffler visits and answers questions
Reading: no reading for this week.

Wednesday 17 October 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 5: Expressivism/Non-Cognitivism
What, exactly, is non-cognitivism, and how does answering this question help us approach the question of whether it might be true? What ? exactly ? is the 'Frege-Geach' problem, and how should non-cognitivism tackle it?
Reading: Selections from A. J. Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic; Frank Jackson "The Argument from the Persistence of Moral Disagreement"; Selections from Allan Gibbard's Thinking How to Live; Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit "A Problem for Expressivism"; Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit "Locke, expressivism, conditionals"; Sebastian Koehler "Expressivism, Subjectivism and Moral Disagreement"; Selections from Derek Parfit's On What Matters ; Mark Schroeder "Expression for Expressivists". Powerpoint for Seminar 5.

Wednesday 24 October 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 6: The distinction between subjective and objective obligation revisited
Decisions are made in the face of uncertainty. We know how to accommodate this in decision theory. How should we make the accommodation when we frame theories in ethics?
Background reading: Frank Jackson, 'Decision?theoretic consequentialism and the nearest and dearest objection', Ethics, (101) 1991: 46-82; Michael Smith, 'Consequentialism and the nearest and dearest objection' in Minds, Ethics and Conditionals: Themes from the Philosophy of Frank Jackson, ed. Ian Ravenscroft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Frank Jackson and Robert Pargetter "Oughts, Options, and Actualism" Philosophical Review 1986; the Portmore and Wedgwood threads about Professor Procrastinate on the Pea Soup blog; and selections from Douglas Portmore's Commonsense Consequentialism. Powerpoint for Seminar 6.

MID-TERM BREAK

Wednesday 7 November 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 7: David Enoch visits and talks about moral deference
Background reading: Alison Hills "Moral Testimony and Moral Epistemology"

Wednesday 14 November 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 8: Reflections on Parfit's attack on naturalism.
In his new book Derek Parfit spends some space attacking naturalism in ethics. The attack prompts three questions. What exactly is naturalism? Is Parfit right that what he calls 'soft naturalism' is the inferior version of the doctrine? Is his attack on hard naturalism the old open question argument re-run, and does this matter?
Background reading: Derek Parfit, On What Matters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), Chapters 24, 25, 26, 27; Frank Jackson "In Defence Of Reductionism In Ethics", Powerpoint for Seminar 8.

Wednesday 21 November 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 9: Common sense recognizes stringent goods (and bads).
Let a good be stringent (robustly demanding) iff it makes demands on how things are in certain possible worlds as well as on how things are in the actual. Common sense countenances many stringent goods, ranging from love and friendship to honesty and justice, to ownership and freedom.
Background reading: Harman 'Moral philosophy meets social psychology, Herman 'A mismatch of methods', Pettit 'The instability of freedom as non-interference', Pettit Love and its place in moral discourse, Setiya 'Love and the value of life' Skinner 'Freedom as absence of arbitrary power', Sosa 'Situations against virtues'. The handout for this seminar is available here.

Wednesday 28 November 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 10: Common sense is right to recognize stringent goods (and bads).
Is every stringent good substitutable without loss by a good that imposes just actual demands? Or by a good that imposes just demands of an expectational kind?
Background reading: Robert Nozick "The Experience Machine"; Shelley Kagan "The Limits of Well-Being"; Robert Goodin and Frank Jackson "Freedom from Fear"; Joseph Raz "Reasons for Action, Decisions, and Norms"; Thomas Nagel "Death"

Wednesday 5 December 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 11: Evaluative stringency explains certain anomalies of commonsense thought.
The anomalies to be considered include attaching greater moral importance to intended harms than to foreseen harms, to harms by commission than to harms by omission, etc, and being readier to ascribe intentional harmfulness than intentional helpfulness.
Background reading: Knobe, J., "The Concept of Intentional Action: A Case Study in the Uses of Folk Psychology"; Cushman, F. et al "The Role of Conscious Reasoning and Intuition in Moral Judgments"; Hindriks, F. "Normativity in Action: How to Explain the Knobe Effect and Its Relatives"; Alec Walen "Transcending the Means Principle".

Wednesday 12 December 2012 1:30pm-4:20pm 201 Marx Hall
Seminar 12: Evaluative stringency argues for a more common-sensical consequentialism.
Consequentialism makes the right a promotional function of the agent-neutral value. Let this value include stringent goods and many traditional objections look less daunting.
Background reading: Peter Railton 'Alienation, Consequentialism and the Demands of Morality'; Barbara Herman 'A Mismatch of Methods'; Philip Pettit 'The Inescapability of Consequentialism'.