Contemporary Moral Theory

14:00 - 15:30

Institute of English and American Studies
Zoltán utca

The course deals with the standard approaches—utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue theory, and contractarianism as well as more recent ones such as pragmatism and feminism—and issues in moral theory, such as intrinsic value, subjectivity, realism, the role of principles and rules, and the very possibility of ethics.  Readings for the course will be from a variety of authors, but many of them will be found in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory, edited by Hugh LaFollette (Blackwell Publishing, 2000).  Although the instructor has endeavored to make readings readily available, students may want to purchase this useful volume.  The schedule of classes, topics and readings is available online. Questions should be directed to Michael Eldridge

Note:  Moral theory, particularly, Anglo-American moral theory, can be rather abstract, even technical. It is ironic that explanations of a pervasive feature of life can be quite remote from that life, but such is the nature of much philosophical discussion of morality in the twentieth century.  Students should be prepared to read material that is often dense and closely argued.  Enjoying this sort of reading is an acquired taste; those who have not acquired this facility and interest often react to it as boring and irrelevant.

Requirements for the Course:

Readings: Students are expected to read the assigned reading prior to the class for which it is assigned.  The lectures will assume familiarity with the assigned reading.

Paper on one of the following topics:

The exact focus of the paper is to be worked out with the instructor, and ideas, drafts and notes are to be shared with the instructor during the course of the semester. The instructor will not accept a final version if there have not been preliminary versions and discussions.  The final version is due December 1.

Length: 5 to 8 pages for second and third year students; 10 to 15 pages for fourth and fifth year students.

Final Exam: Oral; two questions: one concerning the paper and one to be chosen at random from the list that will be announced at the end of the course.  If the student does not like his or her first choice, s/he may choose again with a reduction in grade penalty.


Lecture Notes

Week 1 (September 8): Moral Theory and Its History

Week 2 (September 15): Utilitarianism and Moral Theory

Week 3 (September 22): Kantian Ethics

Week 4 (September 29): Contractualism & Constructivism

Week 5 (October 6): Virtue Theory

Week 6 (October 13): Feminist Ethics

Week 7 (October 20): Pragmatic Ethics

Week 8 (October 27): Moore's Wrong Turn

Week 9 (November 11): Intuitionism

Week 10 (November 18): Hare's Universal Prescriptivism

Week 11 (November 25): Anscombe and Mackie

Week 12 (December 1): Continental/European Ethics

Week 13 (December 8): Anti-Ethics

Week 14 (December 15): Ethical Theory