PHIL 3100 -- Ethical Theory
Fall 2015
Prof. Chris Heathwood

University of Colorado Boulder

What We Did Each Day

(or plan to do)



M 8/24:  First day stuff: Introductions (especially concerning stuttering), roll.

W 8/26:  Syllabus.  Began informal discussion of issues in metaethics.  Example of teenagers and the cat. 

F 8/28: Some semantic theories for "What the teenagers did is wrong" that you came up with:

(1) Non-Reductionism

= "What the teenagers did is bad."
= "What the teenagers did is immoral."
= "What the teenagers did violates an ethical principle."
= "What the teenagers did is something they shouldn't have done."

(2) Constructivist (or Subjectivist) Reductive Naturalism

= "What the teenagers did is generally frowned upon."
= "What the teenagers did is socially unacceptable."
= "What the teenagers did feels wrong."
= "In my opinion what the teenagers did is wrong."
= "What the teenagers did is something that they would not like to have done to them."

(3) Objectivist Reductive Naturalism

= "What the teenagers did caused suffering to another being."
= "What the teenagers did was to the detriment of another being."

Evaluative or normative terms/concepts vs. naturalistic or empirical or descriptive terms/concepts.  The observability of natural properties.  The unobservability of irreducibly evaluative properties.



M 8/31: Wrap-up of last Friday's discussion.  A fourth theory of the meaning of "What the teenagers did is wrong":

(4) Mixed Accounts

= "What the teenagers did had undesirable consequences."
= "What the teenagers did shows a bad character."
= "What the teenagers did was bad for some other being."

Moral Metaphysics and its connection to Moral Semantics.  Moral Epistemology on Naturalism vs. Non-Naturalism. 

What is ethics?  What is metaethics?  Evaluative/normative statements.  Deontic statements, axiological statements, aretaic statements. 

W 9/2:  Definitions of 'subjective property' and 'objective property'.  Lots of examples; possible sources of confusion.  Poll on "Is morality objective of subjective?": RESULTS: 21 for subjective; 13 for objective.

Moral Realism vs. Moral Anti-Realism.  Subjectivism/Constructivism; Non-Cognitivism; Nihilism.  Realist Reductionism/Naturalism; Non-Naturalism.

F 9/4:  Reading Quiz #1.  Review of five-metaethical-theories taxonomy.  What is Cognitivism?  What is Non-Cognitivism.  The Motivational Judgment Internalist Argument for Non-Cognitivism.



M 9/7:  NO CLASS

W 9/9:  The Motivational Judgment Internalist Argument for Non-Cognitivism.  Your objections to each premise.

F 9/11:  The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction.  The Empirical/A Priori Distinction.  Empiricism.  Rationalism.  A Possible Example of a Synthetic A Priori Truth. 



M 9/14:  Reading Quiz #2.  Why ethical knowledge is a potential problem for Empiricism.  Ayer's solution.  

W 9/16:  Individual Subjectivism: Belief Subjectivism and its Problems; Humean Subjectivism.  The difference between Subjectivism and Non-Cognitivism. 

F 9/18:  Reading Quiz #3.  Moore's No-Difference Argument against Individual Subjectivism.



M 9/21:  Guest class by Bodhi Melnitzer on Kantian and Korsgaardian Constructivism.

W 9/23:  Moore's No-Disagreement Argument and Other Forms of Constructivism (Human, Societal, Divine, Ideal Observer).  The Arbitrariness Problem.

F 9/25:  Reading Quiz #4.  The Ideal Observer Theory.  Reductio ad Absurdum arguments.  The Arbitrariness Argument as applied to the Ideal Observer Theory.  HOMEWORK: (1) Think about the arbitrariness argument. Does it go wrong somewhere? Or are you now a moral realist (because it shows that constructivism can't be right, and you aren't inclined to be a non-cognitivist or a nihilist)?  (2) Could moral realism fall prey to an arbitrariness problem as well? Try to come up with a similar arbitrariness argument but that applies to moral realism? Is this possible?



M 9/28:  Discussed Philosophy Paper FAQ and Paper Topics.  Papers due next Wednesday!

W 9/30:  The objective/subjective distinction ("horizontal") vs. the reductionist/non-reductionist distinction ("vertical").  What is reductionism?  What is naturalism?  What are natural properties?  Reductive views in other areas.  Is DCT a form of reductionism?  Is it a form of naturalism?  Non-Naturalism / Intuitionism.  Reductionism and: moral knowledge; moral supervenience.

F 10/2:  Reading Quiz #5.  Two kinds of reductionism in ethics: analytic/a priori vs. synthetic/empirical/a posteriori.  Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism.  Why we can ignore whether ARU is "extensionally adequate."  Two questions.  Two definitions of 'open question'.  Moore's Open Question Argument. 



M 10/5:  A look at the calendar.  Moore's Open Question Argument.  Does the Open Question Argument "Prove Too Much"?  The proves-too-much objection using 'bachelor'.  Why Moore might think this case is different.

W 10/7:  Combined Handout on Metaethics.  What is Intuitionism?  What is Nihilism?  Intuitionist Moral Epistemology.  The Concept of Epistemic Justification.  Inferential vs. Non-Inferential Epistemic Justification. 

F 10/9:  Reading Quiz #6.  Examples of non-inferentially justified beliefs, based on different kinds of appearances (perceptual, introspective, mnemonic).  The Regress Argument for the Idea that Some Moral Beliefs Must Be Non-Inferentially Justified.  Possible Examples of Non-Inferentially Justified Moral Beliefs.  Intellectual appearances / rational intuition.  Four of Mackie's arguments against Intuitionism: (1) Queer Supervenience; (2) Queer Motivation/Magnetism; (3) Queer Knowing; (4) The Argument from Relativity / Disagreement.



M 10/12:  The Argument from Disagreement.  The Argument from Disagreement Against Intuitionism/Moral Realism.  Examples of Moral Disagreement.  Can a Cultural Relativist explain or even be consistent with disagreement, at least between cultures?  How Nihilism explains disagreement.  Why widespread disagreement might seem surprising if Moral Realism is true.  Analogy with auras.  Realist responses to the Argument from Disagreement: to P1: (a) the non-moral roots of much apparent moral disagreement; (b) the even more widespread agreement; to P2: why, given human nature and circumstances, we'd expect lots of interference in our ability to discover moral truths.

W 10/14: Review for Midterm.

F 10/15:  Midterm Part 1.



M 10/19:  Returned First Papers.  Return, review Midterm Part 1.  More Midterm review.

W 10/21:  Midterm Part 2.

F 10/23:  NO CLASS


WEEK 10:

M 10/26:  Introduction to Normative Ethics and the Normative Ethics of Behavior.  Three Areas of Normative Ethics: Normative Ethics of Behavior; Axiology; Virtue/Vice Theory.  Moral Principles.  The Case of Baby Theresa.  Some sample moral principles (KSP, PG, BP).  Fully General Moral Principles.  Necessary and sufficient conditions.  A sample moral theory: 10C.  The fundamental project of the normative ethics of behavior.  A couple more sample theories: GR, GHP.  Refuting Moral Theories.  Counterexamples.

W 10/28:  Returned and Reviewed Bluebooks (Midterm Part 2).  Counterexamples to 10C.  Tips for giving good counterexamples.  Another problem for 10C.

F 10/30:  Reading Quiz #7.  What are some uncontroversially wrong actions?  What do they have in common?  The Suffering Principle.  Problems with the Suffering Principle: Happiness matters too.  A famous passage by Mill.  How best to state Mill's idea?  Mistaken formulations.  Hedonic utility. 



M 11/2:  Our official formulation: AUh.  Understanding AUh.  The gladiator objection to AUh.  How Utilitarianism = Consequentialism + Hedonism.  How Gladiator objection is to hedonistic element.

W 11/4:  Reading Quiz #8.  Supererogation.  Can a person be harmed by some event without that event affecting her experiences in any way, ever?  The Organ Harvest Objection to AUh.

F 11/6:  The Trolley Problem.  One common way to try to solve it (find the morally relevant difference).  Another way to try to solve it: deny that the cases are morally different.  Relation to the Organ Harvest Objection to AUh.



M 11/9:  Introduction to axiology.  Four uses of 'good'/'bad': (1) functional; (2) moral; (3) simpliciter; and (4) welfare.  Value simpliciter vs. welfare value.  Welfarism.  Potential counterexamples to welfarism: the prospering of the wicked; the intrinsic value of equality; the intrinsic value of beauty.  Intrinsic value vs. instrumental value.  The Philosophical Question of Well-Being.

W 11/10:  The many idioms of well-being.  A list of initially plausible intrinsic welfare goods.  Hedonism (in three clauses).  The value of lives.  What Hedonism is not.  Initial thoughts on hedonism.

F 11/12:  Pop Quiz #9.  The Experience Machine Argument against Hedonism.



M 11/16:  Three Main Theories of Well-Being: Hedonism, Desire Satisfactionism, Objective List Theory.  An intuitive list of goods.  Subjectivism about well-being vs. Objectivism about well-being.  The Argument for Subjectivism from the Case of Charlie and Variants of the Case of Charlie. 

W 11/18:  Quiz #10.  The Argument from Horrible Interests for Objectivism.  Desire Satisfactionism.  Desire Satisfactionism and the Experience Machine.

F 11/20:  Two ways Desire Satisfactionism can explain why it is in one's interest to get things one doesn't currently want.  Parfit's Drug Addiction Case.  Summative Desire Satisfactionism vs. Global Desire Satisfactionism.  Parfit's Case of the Stranger on the Train.  Two Possible Solutions: (i) restrict the theory to desires about one's own life; (ii) modify the theory to require awareness of desire satisfaction.


M 11/30:  Return to Normative Ethics of Behavior.  Monism in the Normative Ethics of Behavior.  W.D. Ross.  The Concept of a Prima Facie Duty.  Promise/Accident Example.  How the concept of a prima facie duty is "theory-neutral" and provides a "framework" for normative theorizing; utilitarian reasoning put in terms of prima facie duties.  Ross' List of Prima Facie Duties. 

W 12/2:  Ross' List of Prima Facie Duties.  Rossian Pluralism.  Rossian Epistemology: Fallibilism and Judgment about Particular Situations; A Priorism and Self-Evidence.  Ross' Argument from Promises against Utilitarianism.  Is Deontology Irrational?

F 12/4:  Free Quiz.  FCQ's.  Impromptu Paper Presentations.  Poll results on favorite and least favorite topics:

Favorite: Constructivism/Arbitrariness (7); Intuitionism/Nihilism (7); Non-Cognitivism (2); Utilitarianism (2); Diff. bw Obj. & Subj. about morality; Reductionism (2); Deontology/Ross (2); Objective vs. Subjective Theories of Well-Being (2); Welfare (3); Desire Satisfactionism; Hedonism/Exp. Mach.

Least Favorite: Utilitarianism (5); Reductionism & Open Question Argument (4); Non-Cognitivism (5); Desire Satisfactionism; Intuitionism; Welfare; Constructivism; Trolley Problem (2)



M 12/7:  Review for Final Part 1.

W 12/9:  Final Exam Part 1.

F 12/11:  Return and Review Final Exam Part 1.  Review for Final Exam Part 2.