Lectures take place Mondays from 10-11am in 2/1083 and Fridays from 9-11am in 2A/2063
Moral philosophy studies the principles that lie behind common-sense moral judgments like ‘human trafficking is wrong’ and ‘it is right to help people in need’. In its most ambitious form, it seeks a more fundamental and unified justification of these common-sense principles and judgments. This module examines moral philosophy in two stages. In the first stage, we will consider the negative side of morality—i.e., the part that prohibits or discourages certain acts and ways of relating to others. We will begin by considering the wrongness of killing and lesser forms of harming. As we will see, prohibitions against harming are harder to explicate than one might have might expected. We will hence need to think about whether they need to be derived from more fundamental principles that would simultaneously exclude other kinds of wrong acts. In this connection, we will look at how to best understand some other serious wrongs—e.g., exploitation and oppression. In seeking a more fundamental and systematic explanation of these wrongs, we will focus on Kantian ethics, and especially its principle that persons are to be valued as ends in themselves, never merely as means. But utilitarianism will also appear as a foil.
In the second half of the module, we turn to consider the positive side of morality—i.e., the part that requires or encourages certain acts and ways of relating to others. We will transition into this part of the module by thinking about whether Kantian ethics generates any significant positive requirements, such as requirements to feed starving people. Here we will also mull the relationship between Kantian and rule-utilitarian thinking. Having examined the limits of Kantian positivity, we will consider whether the ideal of respect should be supplemented or replaced with an ideal of care. After considering the virtues of this approach—'care ethics’—we will investigate whether it might prove oppressive, as some of its critics have argued. In seeking to address this concern, we will reflect on whether the Enlightenment conception of personhood that lies behind both Kantian ethics and the objections to care ethics might be usefully replaced by a non-Western, communitarian conception. We will end by considering whether moral philosophy even in the narrow sense should be intrinsically concerned with more than just persons, and how we might formulate a non-consequentialist environmental ethics.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS
The readings divide into required, strongly recommended, and optional further readings. I include the optional readings just in case you find the topic especially interesting or would like to write a paper on nearby issues.
Required readings are available for registered students on this password-protected page. Most of the optional further readings can be found for free online or through the university library.
Part 1. Negative Morality
Week 1: The Wrongness of Killing and the Badness of Death
Required reading McMahan, J. ‘Killing and Equality’
Further reading Hanser, M. ‘The Wrongness of Killing and the Badness of Death’ Jaworska, A. and Tannenbaum, J. ‘The Grounds of Moral Status’ Kittay, E. F. ‘At the Margins of Moral Personhood’ McMahan, J. ‘Death and the Value of Life’ McMahan, J. The Ethics of Killing, Chapter 3. Nagel, T. ‘Death’
Week 2: The Trolley Problem
Required reading Thomson, J. ‘The Trolley Problem’ Thomson, J. ‘Turning the Trolley’
Strongly recommended reading Kamm, F. ‘The Doctrine of Triple Effect and Why a Rational Agent Need Not Intend the Means to His End’
Further reading Foot, P. ‘The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect.’ McMahan, J. ‘Intention, Permissibility, Terrorism, and Just War.’ Quinn, W. ‘Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing.’ Woollard, F. ‘If This Is My Body… A Defense of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing.’ Woollard, F. ‘The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing, Part 2.’
Week 3: Further Case Studies in Negative Morality - Exploitation
Required reading Sample, R. Exploitation, Chapter 3.
Strongly recommended reading Sample, R. Exploitation, Chapters 1-2. Zwolinski, M. and Wertheimer, A. ‘Exploitation’
Further reading Arneson, R. ‘What’s Wrong with Exploitation?’ Snyder, J. ‘Exploitation and Sweatshop Labor’ Valdman, M. ‘A Theory of Wrongful Exploitation’ Wood, A. ‘Exploitation’ Wertheimer, A. Exploitation.
Week 4: Further Case Studies in Negative Morality - Slavery and Human Trafficking
Required reading Lawson, B. ‘Oppression and Slavery’ Khan, A. ‘Modern Slavery in the UK’ in the Guardian
Further reading Cudd, A. Analyzing Oppression Davis, A. ‘Unfinished Lecture on Liberation’ Douglass, F. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. ARCHIVE.ORG Hare, R. M. ‘What is Wrong with Slavery?’ Jacobs, H. A. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. ARCHIVE.ORG McGary, H. and Lawson, B. Between Slavery and Freedom. Rosen, F. ‘Jeremy Bentham on Slavery and the Slave Trade’ Sundstrom, R. ‘Frederick Douglass’ SEP
Week 5: The Kantian Unification of Negative Morality, Part 1
Required reading Kant, I. Selections from Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals
Further reading Wood, A. Chapters 3-5 of Kant’s Ethical Thought. Wood, A. ‘The Supreme Principle of Morality’
Week 6: The Kantian Unification of Negative Morality, Part 2
Required reading Kant, I. Selections from Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals
Strongly recommended reading Kant, I. Selections from Perpetual Peace
Further reading Kamm, F. ‘Non-Consequentialism' Parfit, D. ‘Possible Consent’ Wood, A. ‘Marx and Kant on Exploitation.’
Part 2. Positive Morality Week 7: The Positive Requirements of Dignity
Required reading Kant, I. Selections from The Metaphysics of Morals
Strongly recommended reading The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Articles 22-28 FDR’s ‘Four Freedoms’ speech Interview with S. Matthew Liao about whether there is a right to be loved
Further reading Fabre, C. Chapters 1 and 2 of Social Rights under the Constitution. Guyer, P. Selection from commentary on Groundwork. Herman, B. ‘Mutual Aid and Respect for Persons’ Kahn, S. ‘Can Positive Duties be Derived from Kant’s Formula of Universal Law?’ Korsgaard, C. ‘Kant’s Analysis of Obligation’ Liao, S. Matthew. The Right to be Loved. Wood, A. Selection from Kant’s Ethical Thought. Week 8: Care Ethics
Required reading Noddings, N. ‘Caring’ Benhabib, S. ‘The Generalized and the Concrete Other’
Further reading Baier, A. ‘The Need for More than Justice.’ Darwall, S. Selections from Welfare and Rational Care. Gilligan, C. ‘Moral Orientation and Moral Development’ Held, V. Selections from The Ethics of Care. Held, V. ‘Justice and Utility: Who Cares?’
Week 9. Care Ethics, Exploitation, and the Justice/Care Dichotomy
Required reading Card, C. ‘Caring and Evil’ Friedman, M. ‘Beyond Caring’
Strongly recommended reading Davion, V. ‘Autonomy, Integrity, and Care’
Further reading Card, C. ‘Gender and Moral Luck’ Nietzsche, F. On the Genealogy of Morals. Sander-Staudt, M. ‘Care Ethics’, Section 3
Week 10: Persons and Communities: Beyond Individualist Notions of Personhood?
Required reading/listening Gyekye, K. ‘Person and Community in African Thought’ History of Philosophy without Gaps podcasts on traditional African ideas of personhood and ubuntu.
Strongly recommended reading/viewing Gyekye, K. ‘African Ethics’ Vest, J. L. YouTube lecture on the Akan concept of a person. Wingo, A. ‘Akan Philosophy of the Person’ Wiredu, K. ‘The Moral Foundation of an African Culture’
Further reading Bell, D. ‘Communitarianism’ Metz, T. ‘Toward an African Moral Theory’ Mnyaka, M. and Motlhabi, M. ‘The African Concept of Ubuntu/Botho and its Socio-Moral Significance.’ Wiredu, K. ‘Moral Foundations of an African Culture’
Week 11: Persons, Animals, and Environments: Beyond Anthropocentric Notions of Dignity?
Required reading Routley, R. ‘Is There Need for a New, an Environmental, Ethic?’
Further reading/viewing Brennan, A. ‘The Moral Standing of Natural Objects’ O’Neill, J. ‘The Varieties of Intrinsic Value’ Sylvan, R. ‘Moral Matters Matter—Environmentally?’ Sylvan, R. ‘Against Deep Ecology’ Section 3.1 of Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Environmental Ethics YouTube documentary about founder of deep ecology, Arne Næss.