PHIL 181 - Philosophical Issues: An Introduction
Summer 2016, Section 201
Instruction Mode: Section 201 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Requirements & Distribution:
Credit Exclusions:
No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in PHIL 182, 202, 231, 232, 234, or 297.
Waitlist Capacity:
Other Course Info:
F, W, Sp, Su.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


This course will address questions like the following:

  • Does the existence of widespread moral disagreement mean that there can't be any objective facts and it's all just a matter of opinion?
  • Can we reconcile the idea of an objective moral reality with evolutionary and sociological arguments that explain how we developed our moral beliefs?
  • Is it strange that there can be facts that tell you what to do?

We will begin by examining three famous arguments for an "Anti-Realist" view of morality: J.L. Mackie's arguments from disagreement and from "queerness", and Sharon Street's "Darwinian dilemma". These arguments are all supposed to challenge the "Realist" idea that our moral beliefs reflect mind-independent moral facts. We will develop philosophical skills through close analysis of these arguments, identifying their logical structure and thereby pinpointing the main points at which they could be challenged. We will then apply these skills to a series of classic texts defending alternative views of the nature of morality and our relationship to it: we will cover moral relativism, Cornell realism, dispositional theories of value, quasi-realism and constructivism. Finally, we will explore the question of whether our moral beliefs are on surer footing than some of our other kinds of beliefs, including religious beliefs, scientific beliefs, beliefs about mathematics and logic, and - most importantly - beliefs about what we should believe.

Course Requirements:

Students will be assessed on the basis of class participation, a midterm response paper, a final paper, and a final exam.

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PHIL 181 - Philosophical Issues: An Introduction
Schedule Listing
201 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 4:00PM - 6:00PM

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