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LECTURE SCHEDULE

Autumn Term

Lecturer: Dr. Cristian Constantinescu
During the course of this term we will explore together some of the most fundamental questions in ethics, which have exercised philosophers since ancient times. We start with perhaps the most pressing question of all: why should we even be moral? Sometimes doing the right thing is particularly hard, because it clashes with our selfish interests. Why should we act against our interests and not against morality in such cases? We’ll explore together several philosophical attempts to answer this question, some dating back to Plato, others arising from more recent schools of thought. From week 2 onwards, our topics are grouped into three different themes: questions about how one should live (weeks 2–4), questions of moral standing (weeks 5–7), and metaethical questions (8–10). The first theme follows on from our initial concerns about the value of being moral. Most philosophers (including Plato) have attempted to answer the question ‘Why be moral?’ by showing that morality is necessary for one to be able to lead a good life. In weeks 2–4 we explore this claim in more detail by raising three questions: What is the role of pleasure in a good life? What about duty? What about virtue? In weeks 5–7 we then move from questions about one’s own life to questions about the lives of others: Do we have good reason to grant equal consideration to the interests of all humans? If so, what is it that makes all human beings equal members of the moral community? Do human fetuses qualify? How about nonhuman animals? In the final three weeks of the course we shift from questions within ethics to questions about ethics (often referred to as ‘metaethical’). One such question concerns the nature of moral judgments: are they meant to convey rational beliefs, or are they rather expressive of emotive attitudes (passions, sentiments, etc.)? Another question concerns the nature of moral values: do they exist objectively, as part of the fabric of the world, or are they instead subjective creatures of our sensibilities? In week 10 we round up by considering arguments for and against moral relativism.
Preliminary Reading:

This collection contains a wide range of contributions to the topics discussed in this course, including most of the set readings.
Assessment:

The overall module, covering both Ethics and Political Philosophy, will be assessed by a two-hour exam in the summer term. Past papers may be consulted at www.bbk.ac.uk/lib/elib/exam.


Prior to the exam, you may also write up to two essays during each term of the module, taken from the titles below, and receive feedback on them from your seminar leader. These can be useful practice for your eventual exam. You should submit the first such essay by the first seminar after reading week, and the second by one week after the last seminar of term. [Notes: (1) You are always welcome to submit an essay earlier than these dates; (2) the seminar leader should not be expected to comment on the same essay more than once.]
Week 1: Why be moral?

Essential Reading:

  • Plato, The Republic, Book II, 357a-367e [available online at: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html.]; excerpt reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 132–7.

Additional Reading:

  • Bernard Williams, Morality: An Introduction to Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. xvii–xx, 3–13.

  • Philippa Foot, ‘Immoralism’, Chapter 7 of her Natural Goodness (Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 99-115.


Weeks 24: How Should One Live?
Week 2: What is the role of pleasure in a good life?

Essential Reading:

  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (various editions), Chapters 1 & 2 [available online at: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11224]; excerpts reprinted as ‘Hedonism’ in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 258–63.

Additional Reading:

  • Robert Nozick, ‘The Experience Machine’, in his Anarchy, State and Utopia (Basic Books, 1974), pp. 42–5; excerpt reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 264–5.

  • Fred Feldman, ‘The Good Life: A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2002), pp. 604–28; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 266–76. [Full paper available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/3071131.]


Week 3: What is the role of duty in a good life?

Essential Reading:

  • Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (various editions), Chapter 1 [available online at: www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/kant1785chapter1.pdf]; excerpt reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 485–98.

Additional Reading:

  • Barbara Herman, ‘On the Value of Acting from the Motive of Duty’, Philosophical Review 90 (1981), pp. 359–82. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2184978.]

  • Michael Stocker, ‘The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories’, Journal of Philosophy 73 (1976), pp. 453–66. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2025782.]


Week 4: What is the role of virtue in a good life?

Essential Reading:

  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, excerpts from Books I, II & X reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 615–29.

Additional Reading:

  • Julia Annas, ‘Virtue Ethics’, in D. Copp (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory (Oxford University Press), pp. 515–36.

  • Simon Keller, ‘Virtue Ethics is Self-Effacing’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85, pp. 221–32. [Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00048400701343010.]


Weeks 5-7: Questions of Moral Standing
Week 5: What, if anything, renders all humans morally equal?

Essential Reading:

  • Peter Singer, ‘Equality and its Implications’, ch. 2 of his Practical Ethics (3rd edition, Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 16–47.

Additional Reading:

  • Stephen Darwall, ‘Two Kinds of Respect’, Ethics 88 (1977), pp. 36–49. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2379993.]

  • Ian Carter, ‘Respect and the Basis of Equality’, Ethics 121 (2011), pp. 538–571. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658897.]



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Reading Week

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Week 6: What is the moral standing of human fetuses?

Essential Reading:

  • Michael Tooley, ‘Abortion and Infanticide’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1972), pp. 37–65; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 390–9. [Also available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2264919.]

Additional Reading:

  • Don Marquis, ‘An Argument that Abortion Is Wrong’, in H. LaFollette, ed., Ethics in Practice (Blackwell, 1997), pp. 91–102; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 400–9.

  • Judith J. Thomson, ‘A Defence of Abortion’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971), pp. 47–66. Reprinted in P. Singer (ed.), Applied Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 37–56. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2265091.]


Week 7: What is the moral standing of nonhuman animals?

Essential Reading:

  • Peter Singer, ‘All Animals are Equal’, in P. Singer (ed.), Applied Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 215–28; reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 361–71. [Also available online at: http://tinyurl.com/nlvokes.]

Additional Reading:

  • Raymond Frey, ‘Pain, Interests, and Vegetarianism’, chapter 11 of his Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals (Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 139–67.

  • Elizabeth Harman, ‘The Moral Significance of Animal Pain and Animal Death’, in T.L. Beauchamp & R.G. Frey (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 726–37. [Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/oofpt4h.]



Weeks 8-10: Metaethical Questions
Week 8: Are moral judgments based on reason?

Essential Reading:

  • David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature (various editions), ‘Of the Influencing Motives of the Will’ (Book II, Part III, §3) and ‘Moral Distinctions not Derived from Reason’ (Book III, Part I, §1); excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 7–15. [Also available online at: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4705.]

Additional Reading:

  • Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (various editions), Chapter 2 [available online at: www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/kant1785chapter2.pdf]

  • Philippa Foot, ‘Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives’, The Philosophical Review 81 (1972), pp. 305–15 [available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2184328] ; also reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 138–43.


Week 9: Are moral values part of the fabric of the world?

Essential Reading:

  • John L. Mackie,‘The Subjectivity of Values’, Ch. 1 of his Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (Penguin, 1977), pp. 15–49; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 22–30.

Additional Reading:

  • David Brink, ‘Moral Realism and the Sceptical Arguments from Disagreement and Queerness’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (1984), pp. 112–25. [Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/ol5jwsx.]

  • John McDowell, ‘Values and Secondary Qualities’, in T. Honderich (ed.), Morality and Objectivity (Routledge, 1985), pp. 110–29; reprinted in his Mind, Value, and Reality (Harvard University Press, 1998).


Week 10: Are moral judgments relative?

Essential Reading:

  • Gilbert Harman, ‘Moral Relativism Defended’, Philosophical Review, 85 (1975), pp. 3–22; excerpt reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 35–43. [Full paper available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2184078.]

Additional Reading:

  • Nicholas L. Sturgeon, ‘Moral Disagreement and Moral Relativism’, Social Philosophy and Policy 1 (1994), pp. 80–115. [Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0265052500004301.]

  • Bernard Williams, ‘The Truth in Relativism’, ch. 11 of his Moral Luck (Cambridge University Press, 1981), reprinted from Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 75 (1974-5). [Available online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/4544875.]

ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR TERM 1


1. Is there more to a good life than just pleasure?

Essential Reading:

  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (various editions), Chapters 1 & 2 [available online at: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11224]; excerpts reprinted as ‘Hedonism’ in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 258–63.

Additional Reading:

  • Robert Nozick, ‘The Experience Machine’, in his Anarchy, State and Utopia (Basic Books, 1974), pp. 42–5; excerpt reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 264–5.

  • Fred Feldman, ‘The Good Life: A Defense of Attitudinal Hedonism’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2002), pp. 604–28; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 266–76. [Full paper available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/3071131.]

2. What does it mean to act solely from duty? Is there anything objectionable about doing so?



Essential Reading:

  • Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (various editions), Chapter 1. [Available online at: www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdfs/kant1785.pdf.]

Additional Reading:

  • Barbara Herman, ‘On the Value of Acting from the Motive of Duty’, Philosophical Review 90 (1981), pp. 359-382. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2184978.]

  • Michael Stocker, ‘The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories’, Journal of Philosophy 73 (1976), pp. 453-466. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2025782.]

3. What, if anything, justifies the claim that all people are owed equal moral consideration?



Essential Reading:

  • Peter Singer, ‘Equality and its Implications’, ch. 2 of his Practical Ethics (3rd edition, Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 16-47.

Additional Reading:

  • Stephen Darwall, ‘Two Kinds of Respect’, Ethics 88 (1977), pp. 36-49. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2379993.]

  • Ian Carter, ‘Respect and the Basis of Equality’, Ethics 121 (2011), pp. 538-571. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658897.]

4. Is abortion morally permissible?



Essential Reading:

  • Michael Tooley, ‘Abortion and Infanticide’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1972), pp. 37–65; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 390–9. [Also available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2264919.]

Additional Reading:

  • Don Marquis, ‘An Argument that Abortion Is Wrong’, in H. LaFollette, ed., Ethics in Practice (Blackwell, 1997), pp. 91–102; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 400–9.

  • Judith J. Thomson, ‘A Defence of Abortion’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971), pp. 47–66. Reprinted in P. Singer (ed.), Applied Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 37–56. [Available online at: www.jstor.org/stable/2265091.]

5. Is it wrong to kill animals for food?



Essential Reading:

  • Peter Singer, ‘All Animals are Equal’, in P. Singer (ed.), Applied Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 215–28; reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 361–71. [Also available online at: http://tinyurl.com/nlvokes.]

Additional Reading:

  • Raymond Frey, ‘Pain, Interests, and Vegetarianism’, chapter 11 of his Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals (Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 139–67.

  • Elizabeth Harman, ‘The Moral Significance of Animal Pain and Animal Death’, in T.L. Beauchamp & R.G. Frey (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 726–37. [Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/oofpt4h.]

6. In what sense, if any, can we say that there are objective moral values ‘out there’?



Essential Reading:

  • John L. Mackie,‘The Subjectivity of Values’, Ch. 1 of his Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (Penguin, 1977), pp. 15–49; excerpts reprinted in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edn. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 22–30.

Additional Reading:

  • David Brink, ‘Moral Realism and the Sceptical Arguments from Disagreement and Queerness’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (1984), pp. 112–25. [Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/ol5jwsx.]

  • John McDowell, ‘Values and Secondary Qualities’, in T. Honderich (ed.), Morality and Objectivity (Routledge, 1985), pp. 110–29; reprinted in his Mind, Value, and Reality (Harvard University Press, 1998).

Spring Term


Lecturer: Dr. Michael Garnett

Assessment:

The overall module, covering both Ethics and Political Philosophy, will be assessed by a two-hour exam in the summer term.

Prior to the exam, you may also write up to two essays during each term of the module, taken from the titles below, and receive feedback on them from your seminar leader. These can be useful practice for your eventual exam. You should submit the first such essay by the first seminar after reading week, and the second by one week after the last seminar of term. [Notes: (1) You are always welcome to submit an essay earlier than these dates; (2) the seminar leader should not be expected to comment on the same essay more than once.]
Weeks 1-5: The State and Its Claims to Authority
Week 1: The Anarchist Challenge
Seminar Reading:


  • Wolff, R. P. ‘The conflict between authority and autonomy’, Ch. 1 of his In Defense of Anarchism (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).


Additional Reading:

  • Simmons, A. J. ‘Obligations’ and ‘The Problem of Political Obligation’, Chs. 1 & 2 of his Moral Principles and Political Obligations (Princeton University Press, 1979).


Question

What is Wolff’s argument against political authority? Is it convincing?



Week 2: Locke and the Consent of the Governed
Seminar Reading:

  • Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government [many editions], Book II, Ch. 8.


Additional Reading:

  • Simmons, A. J. ‘The argument from tacit consent’, Ch. 4 of his Moral Principles and Political Obligations (Princeton University Press, 1979).


Question

Does Locke have a convincing theory of political obligation?



Week 3: Fair Play
Seminar Reading:

  • Simmons, A. J. ‘The principle of fair play’, Philosophy & Public Affairs 8/4 (1979). [Available at www.jstor.org/stable/2265067.]


Additional Reading:

  • Rawls, John. ‘Legal Obligation and the Duty of Fair Play’, in S. Freeman, ed., John Rawls: Collected Papers (Harvard University Press, 1999).


Question

What is the Principle of Fair Play? Can it be used to solve the problem of political obligation?




Week 4: Associative Obligation
Seminar Reading:

  • Dworkin, Ronald. ‘The Puzzle of Legitimacy’, ‘Obligations of Community’, and ‘Fraternity and Political Community’, in his Law’s Empire (Belknap, 1986), pp. 190-215.


Additional Reading:

  • Simmons, A. J. ‘Associative political obligations’, Ethics 106/2 (1996). [Available at www.jstor.org/stable/2382059.]


Question

In what ways might the obligation to obey the law be analogous to the obligation to care for one’s family?



Week 5: Disobedience and Resistance
Seminar Reading:

  • Lyons, David. ‘Moral judgement, historical reality, and civil disobedience’, Philosophy & Public Affairs 27/1 (1998). [Available at www.jstor.org/stable/2672840.]


Additional Reading:

  • Brownlee, Kimberley. ‘Introduction’, in her Conscience and Conviction: The case for civil disobedience (Oxford: Oxford University Press). [Available via Birkbeck elibrary.]


Question

Under what conditions is civil disobedience justified?



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Reading Week

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Weeks 6-10: Justice in Distribution – Who Gets What?


Week 6: Rawls’ Theory of Justice
Seminar Reading:

  • Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice (Clarendon Press, 1972), §§1-4, 11, & 24-26.


Additional Reading:

  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 50-70.


Week 7: Criticisms of Rawlsian Justice
Seminar Reading:

  • Cohen, G. A. Rescuing Justice and Equality (Harvard University Press, 2008), Ch. 1.


Additional Reading:

  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 70-90.


Question

Explain and assess Rawls’ theory of justice.



Week 8: Locke on Property
Seminar Reading:

  • Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government [many editions], Book II, Chs. 1, 2 & 5.


Additional Reading:

  • Mautner, Thomas. ‘Locke on original appropriation’, American Philosophical Quarterly 19/3 (1982).


Question

How, according to Locke, can things legitimately come to be privately owned? Is he right?



Week 9: Nozick’s Libertarian Justice
Seminar Reading:

  • Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Blackwell, 1974), pp. 149-64, 167-82, & 262-5.


Additional Reading:

  • Cohen, G. A. Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality (Cambridge University Press, 1995), Ch. 1, §§ 1, 5-8, & Ch. 2, §2.


Question

‘Liberty upsets patterns’ (Nozick). Does it?



Week 10: Desert and the Market
Seminar Reading:

  • Olsaretti, Serena. ‘Productive contributions and deserved market rewards’, Ch. 3 of her Liberty, Desert and the Market (Cambridge University Press, 2004).


Additional Reading:

  • Miller, David. ‘Distributive justice’, Ch. 6 of his Market, State, and Community (Clarendon Press, 1989), §2 onwards.


Question

Are market outcomes deserved?





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