PHIL 3100 -- Ethical Theory
Fall 2016
Prof. Chris Heathwood
TA: Jules Guidry

University of Colorado Boulder

What We Did Each Day

(or plan to do)



Tu 8/23:  First day stuff: Introductions (especially concerning stuttering), syllabus. Began informal discussion of issues in metaethics.  Example of teenagers and the cat.  Some initial views that some of you came up with on what we are saying when we say that the act is wrong: we are saying:

- that we wouldn't want lots of people to go around doing that
- that the culture that we are in does not condone that behavior
that it is something that shouldn't be done
- that it is unfair and unjust
- that it is causing deliberate suffering.

Th 8/25: Informal discussion of issues in metaethics.  Example of teenagers and the cat again.  Lots of jargon: subjectivism, cultural relativism, reductionism, naturalism, non-reductionism, non-naturalism, evaluative term, non-evaluative/naturalistic term.


Tu 8/30:  What is ethics?  What is metaethics?  Evaluative/normative statements.  Deontic statements, axiological statements, aretaic statements.  Definitions of 'subjective property' and 'objective property'.  Lots of examples; possible sources of confusion. 

Th 9/1:  Reading Quiz #1.  Poll on "Is morality objective of subjective?"  Moral Realism vs. Moral Anti-Realism.  Subjectivism/Constructivism; Non-Cognitivism; Nihilism.  Realist Reductionism/Naturalism; Non-Naturalism.


Tu 9/6:  The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction.  The Empirical/A Priori Distinction.

Th 9/8:  Reading Quiz #2.  Empiricism.  Rationalism.  A Possible Example of a Synthetic A Priori Truth.  Why ethical knowledge is a potential problem for Empiricism.  Ayer's solution.


Tu 9/13:  Individual Subjectivism: Belief Subjectivism and its Problems; Humean Subjectivism.  The difference between Subjectivism and Non-Cognitivism.  Moore's No-Difference Argument against Humean Subjectivism.

Th 9/15:  Reading Quiz #3.  Moore's No-Difference Argument against Humean Subjectivism.  Giving the rationale for a premise.  Some Other Forms of Constructivism: Humanist Relativism, Cultural Relativism, Divine Command Theory, Ideal Observer Theory.  Do any of these imply what Moore says Humean Subjectivism implies?  Do any of these imply something similar?  Do any of these imply nothing similar?


Tu 9/20:  Reading Quiz #4.  The Arbitrariness Problem for Constructivism.

Th 9/22:  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?  Does reductionism entail naturalism?  Does naturalism entail reductionism?  Non-Reductive Naturalism.  Non-Naturalism / Intuitionism.


Tu 9/27:  Assigned First Paper.  Discussed Philosophy Paper FAQ.  Reductionism and: the nature of the moral; moral knowledge; moral supervenience; Ockham's razor.  Two kinds of reductionism in ethics: analytic/a priori vs. synthetic/empirical/a posteriori.  Analytic Reductive Utilitarianism.

Th 9/29:  Reading Quiz #5.  A look at the calendar.  Why we can ignore whether ARU is "extensionally adequate."  Two questions.  Two definitions of 'open question'.  Moore's Open Question Argument.


Tu 10/4:  Collected First Paper.  Handed out Combined Handout on Metaethics.  What is Intuitionism?  What is Nihilism?  Intuitionist Moral Epistemology.  The Concept of Epistemic Justification.  Inferential vs. Non-Inferential Epistemic Justification.  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 (if any are justified at all).  Possible Examples of Non-Inferentially Justified Moral Beliefs.  Intellectual appearances / rational intuition.  Striking Ross passage.

Th 10/6:  Reading Quiz #6.  Four of Mackie's arguments against Intuitionism: (1) Queer Supervenience; (2) Queer Motivation/Magnetism; (3) Queer Knowing; (4) The Argument from Relativity / 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.


Tu 10/11:  Review for Midterm.

Th 10/13:  Midterm Part 1.  Return Midterm Part 1.  More review.


Tu 10/18:  Midterm Part 2.  BRING A BLUEBOOK!!!

Th 10/20:  Guest mini-lecture by Shane Gronholz.


Tu 10/25:   Three Areas of Ethics.  Three Areas of Normative Ethics: Normative Ethics of Behavior; Axiology; Virtue/Vice Theory.  Moral Principles.  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.  Counterexamples to 10C.  Tips for giving good counterexamples.  Another problem for 10C. 

Th 10/26:  Returned and Reviewed Bluebooks (Midterm Part 2).  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.  Our official formulation: AUh.  Understanding AUh.  Our favorite objections to AUh.


Tu 11/1:  Reading Quiz #7.  Two objections to AUh: Promise-to-the-Dead-Man Objection; Punish-the-Innocent Objection.  Rules.  Alternative rules.  Conformance utility.  RUh.  RUh and the Promise to the Dead Man.  Problems for RUh: (1) The Collapse Problem; (2) Smart's Rule-Worship Objection.

Th 11/3:  Reading Quiz #8.  Why Some Reject Act Utilitarianism.  Preliminaries on Moral Rights.  Utilitarianism of Rights. 


Tu 11/8:  Rights as Side-Constraints.  RT.  Who Has Rights?  Personhood Theory / Rationalism.  What Rights Are There?  Nozick's four categories of rights.  Nozick's Rights Theory.  Problems for Nozick's Rights Theory.

Th 11/10:  Discussed Second Paper Assignment.  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.  The many idioms of well-being.


Tu 11/15:  class cancelled due to illness

Th 11/17:  The Philosophical Question of Well-Being.  A list of initially plausible intrinsic welfare goods.  For each of these goods, how to test whether it is an intrinsic or merely an instrumental welfare good (the bare differences argument).  Hedonism (in three clauses).  What Hedonism is not.  The Argument from Malicious Pleasures against Hedonism.


Tu 11/29:  The Experience Machine Argument against Hedonism.  Three Main Theories of Well-Being: Hedonism, Desire Satisfactionism, Objective List Theory.  Desire Satisfactionism and the Experience Machine.

Th 12/1:  Free Reading Quiz!  FCQs.  Impromptu paper presentations.


Tu 12/6:  Review Day

Th 12/8:  Final Exam Part 1.  Return Final Exam Part 1.  More review.


Th 12/15, 4:30 p.m.:  Final Exam Part 2.  BRING A BLUEBOOK!