PHIL 4901: Topics in Philosophy Seminar
Seminar - 4 credits
- Seminar topic: Metaethics.
- Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses or instructor's permission.
- Course description: "The Earth is spherical" and "it is wrong to kill innocent children for fun" are both true sentences.
- Neither of these, the empirical claim nor the ethical claim are particularly controversial.
- However, while there is very little (reasonable) controversy about what makes the first sentence true (and how we know it is true), there is considerable controversy about both the metaphysics and epistemology of the second claim and others like it.
- This seminar will provide a broad and deep overview of central answers to metaethical questions about what makes moral claims true and how we know them.
- The seminar will start with a quick refresher of answers to metaethical questions that are, for the most part and for good reason, not taken seriously by contemporary metaethicists, like Cultural Relativism and Divine Command Theory.
- We will then turn to what are widely-considered the live options in contemporary Western metaethics.
- Some of these views deny that moral claims are true or false (Non-Cognitivism), some claim that all moral claims are false (Error Theory) or that moral language is simply a fiction where we pretend some moral claims are true (Fictionalism).
- On most views, there are genuine truth-makers for moral claims, but there is much disagreement about what they are.
- On some views, they are grounded in our subjective attitudes or desires (Subjectivism), on others they are tightly bound up with rationality (constructivism), on yet others, the moral truth-makers are entirely independent of us, either very much like the natural facts that make empirical claims true (Naturalist Realism) or some more mysterious kind of non-natural fact (Non-naturalist Realism).
- After a critical survey of the terrain, we'll turn our attention to book-length treatments of particular views or articles that push us to think about metaethical issues in new ways.
Seminar topic: Metaethics. Show more.