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

University of Colorado Boulder

What We Did Each Day

(or plan to do)



Tu 1/13:  First day stuff: Introductions (especially concerning stuttering), roll, syllabus.

Th 1/15:  Informal discussion of issues in metaethics.  Moral Semantics. The distinction between normative and naturalistic vocabulary.  Two main views in moral semantics: non-reductionism; reductive naturalism
.  Two kinds of reductive naturalism: objective and subjective.  Moral Metaphysics.  Two main views in moral metaphysics: non-reductionism/non-naturalism; naturalism.  Moral Epistemology.  Intuition.  Nihilism.  Non-Cognitivism.


Tu 1/20:  Reading Quiz #1.  What is philosophy?  What is ethics?  Applied/Practical ethics, normative ethics, and metaethics.  Theoretical ethics vs. applied/practical 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.  Poll on "Is morality objective of subjective?": objective: 13 (38%); subjective: 21 (62%).  Moral Anti-Realism.  Moral Realism.  Subjectivism/Constructivism.  Individual vs. Societal vs. Theistic Subjective/Constructivism.

Th 1/22:  Moral Anti-Realism.  Moral Realism.  Subjectivism/Constructivism.  Individual vs. Societal vs. Theistic vs. Contractarian Subjective/Constructivism.  Non-Cognitivism.  Nihilism.  Realist Reductionism/Naturalism.  Non-Naturalism.  Cognitivism.  Non-Cognitivism.  The Argument from Motivational Judgment Internalism against Cognitivism.  The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction.


Tu 1/27: The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction.  The Empirical/A Priori Distinction.  Empiricism.  Rationalism.  A Possible Example of a Synthetic A Priori Truth.  Why ethical knowledge is a potential problem for Empiricism.  Ayer's solution.  The difference between Subjectivism and Non-Cognitivism.

Th 1/29: Reading Quiz #2.  The Frege-Geach Problem.  Moral terms in simple sentences vs. moral terms in embedded contexts (e.g., in belief ascriptions, questions, and conditionals).  The Warm-Up Argument.  The Frege-Geach Argument.  Moore's Argument against Subjectivism: as applied to Westermarck's theory.  Moore's Argument against Subjectivism: as applied to Cultural Relativism.


Tu 2/3: Reading Quiz #3.  Belief Subjectivism.  Why Belief Subjectivism isn't a good way to formulate individualist subjectivism.  Moore's Argument against Westermarck's Subjectivist Theory.  Moore's Argument as applied to Cultural Relativism (first version).  Moore's Argument as applied to Cultural Relativism (second version).  Divine Command Theory (DCT).  DCT and Moral Epistemology.  DCT and Atheism. Why Moore's Argument from Disagreement doesn't work against DCT.  The Ideal Observer Theory.  A First Look at the Arbitrariness Argument.

Th 2/5: Reductio ad Absurdum arguments.  The Arbitrariness Argument against DCT.  The Arbitrariness Argument against other forms of constructivism/subjectivism (e.g., CR).  Why the two kinds of anti-constructivist arguments that we've studied -- Moore's Argument from Disagreement and the Arbitrariness Argument -- don't presuppose realism.


Tu 2/10:  A look at the calendar.  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.  Advantages of reductionism: (1) moral knowledge; (2) moral supervenience. 

Th 2/12: Reading Quiz #4.  Two kinds of reductionism is ethics: analytic/a priori vs. synthetic/a posteriori.  Simple Version of Realist Analytic Reductionism (SVRAR).  Why we can ignore whether SVRAR is "extensionally adequate."  Moore's Open Question Argument.  Two definitions of 'open question'.  The rationale for each premise.  Two objections to Moore's argument: (i) it begs the questions; (ii) it proves too much.  The proves-too-much objection using 'bachelor'.  Why Moore might think this case is different.


Tu 2/17:  Handed out and discussed An Overview of our Metaethical Exploration.  Discussed Philosophy Paper FAQ and Paper Topics.  Stated Non-Naturalism/Intuitionism and Nihilism.  Argument that some moral beliefs must be non-inferential.

Th 2/19:  Reading Quiz #5.  Incomplete draft of Study Guide for Midterm is now up (get started on it now; working through it can also help with your paper).  Non-Naturalism/Intuitionism and Nihilism.  Four kinds of putatively non-inferentially justified beliefs: from introspection, from perception, from memory, from reason or rational intuition.  Mackie's arguments from queerness: queer knowing, queer supervenience/dependence; queer motivation/magnetism.  Motivational Judgment Externalism vs. Motivational Judgment Internalism.


Tu 2/24:  Reading Quiz #6.  Handed Out A Taxonomy of Metaethics.  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 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.

Th 2/26: Review Day for Midterm.


Tu 3/3:  Midterm Part 1.  Grade, return, and review Midterm Part 1.  More review for Midterm Part 2.

Th 3/5:  Midterm Part 2. 


Tu 3/10: Return and review First Papers and Part 2 of Midterms.  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).  (I'll post the slides I used today on Thursday.)

Th 3/12:  Reading Quiz #7.  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.  (Slides for Intro to NEB.)  What are some uncontroversially wrong actions?  What do they have in common?  The Suffering Principle.  Problems with the Suffering Principle.


Tu 3/17:  Problem with the Suffering Principle: Happiness matters too.  A famous passage by Mill.  How best to state Mill's idea?  Mistaken formulations.  Our official formulation.  Hedonic utility, maximization, and alternatives.  AU.  Features of Common Sense Morality absent from AU: options, duties of special relationship, constraints.  The Organ Harvest Objection to AU.  Rationales for P2?  The Switch case from the Trolley Problem, and how this relates.

Th 3/19:  Reading Quiz #8.  The Organ Harvest Objection to AU.  Rationales for P1.  Two Act Utilitarian Replies: An Argument from the Trolley Case Switch; An Argument from a Series of Cases.  The Rule Utilitarian Response.  Problems with (Primitive) Rule Utilitarianism.  (Slides for Utilitarianism.)


Tu 3/30:  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 beauty.  Intrinsic value vs. instrumental value.  Is health intrinsically good?  Is being alive intrinsically good?  How do we test this?

Th 4/2:  Reading Quiz #9.  Is being healthy intrinsically good?  Is being alive intrinsically good?  How do we test this?  A list of the initially plausible intrinsic welfare goods.  Hedonism (in three clauses).  Hedons, dolors.  The value of lives.


Tu 4/7:  (Lecture by Jay Geyer.)  The Desire Satisfaction account of welfare.  Must things matter to you for them to be better for you (Resonance Constraint)?  Dealing with desires that are bad for you (cherry pie allergies): idealizing vs. appealing to conflicting desires.  Dealing with welfare-irrelevant desires (sick stranger on a bus): awareness of satisfaction/frustration requirement vs. desires being about the subject's life requirement.

Th 4/9:  Three Main Theories of Well-Being: Hedonism, Desire Satisfactionism, Objective List Theory.  Lists of arguments for and against each theory.  Other theories: Happiness Theory, Aim Achievementism, Perfectionism, Stoicism, Hybrid Theory.  Desire satisfactionism and the suicidal teenager.  Global vs. Summative Desire Satisfactionism.  Desire satisfactionism and the sick stranger on a bus.  An awareness requirement.  The Experience Machine Objection to Hedonism.  Difficulties in stating the objection.  Our Official Experience Machine Argument against Hedonism.


Tu 4/14:  Reading Quiz #10.  Took poll on one of Rice's arguments for objectivism about welfare.  Concluded Experience Machine Objection to Hedonism.  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.

Th 4/16:  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.  Rossian Pluralism.  The Promise/Accident Example again.  Ross' Argument from Promises against Utilitarianism.  Is Deontology Irrational?


Tu 4/21:  Quiz #11: Free quiz!  An brief introduction to Decision Theory.  Maximin vs. the Principle of Expected Utility.  An example of a decision under moral uncertainty: the burger truck.  A solution: moral hedging.  Two problem for moral hedging: absolutism; the problem of intertheoretic value comparisons.  Lockhart's solution to the problem of intertheoretic value comparisons.  Ross' problem of intratheoretic value comparisons, his solution, and whether this could carry over to the problem of intertheoretic value comparisons.  (Lecture by Jay Geyer.)

Th 4/23:  Collect second paper.  Impromptu paper presentations.  FCQ's.  Q&A/course wrap-up.


Tu 4/28:  Review for final exam.

Th 5/1:  Final Exam Part 1.  Grade, return, and review Final Exam Part 1.  More review for Final Exam Part 2.


Su 5/3, 4:30 p.m.:  Final Exam Part 2.