The seminar will be dedicated to the presentation, interpretation, and critical discussion of moral realism. The first part of the seminar will introduce, through the reading of selected classical texts, to the main varieties of moral realism, concentrating on the different standards of realism that have been put forward and on the different sorts of items that have been proposed for a realist treatment (objects and properties of value; truth-conditions of moral judgments; moral reasons). The second part will concentrate on whether and how successfully moral realism can address questions like the content of moral thoughts, the justification of moral claims, and moral motivation. The seminar will also discuss the major alternatives to moral realism that have been proposed in the contemporary meta-ethical debate and will attempt to assess, in view of the principal features of moral experience and practice, how far we can go in moral theorizing without an option of realism.
The reading for the seminar will include short selections from the classics of moral philosophy, Aristotle to Kant. It will also include more specialized texts by authors like Blackburn, Brink, Dancy, Harman, Mackie, McDowell, Moore, Parfit, Prichard, Railton, Ross, Smith, Williams, and others. Students will be required to write two papers, under supervision. The first one, 5 to 7 pages, due after midterm, will review, reconstruct, and criticize, one of the papers that will be read in the seminar. The second one, 8 to 10 pages, due at the end of the term, will address more general issues concerning moral realism, as they have emerged from the discussion in the seminar.
Open to junior and senior concentrators and to others by permission of concentration advisor.