Instructor: Geoff Sayre McCord
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course is an introduction to moral theory and is designed for people who would like to develop the intellectual tools necessary for thinking clearly and articulately about moral issues. It carries no prerequisites. We will be going straight to the classics -- a few of the best books ever written on the nature of morality: Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals and Mill's Utilitarianism. These four books have had an incredible impact on western culture. Over the semester, however, we will be studying them not as influential historical documents but as living contributions to an ongoing search for an understanding of morality. Thus, the arguments and views presented in the books will be our focus, not their impact through history. Our aim will be to understand and come to grips with the theories of morality they articulate and defend. The course is framed by two very general questions that we all, in effect, ask and answer in living our lives, though often not self-consciously: (1) What really matters in life? and (2) What is involved in answering (1)? In general, worries about the second question arise from worries about the first; and answers to the second usually lead us to answers to the first. In fact, the questions are really far more entangled than they are distinct. So we won't be taking the questions in order; instead we will jump back and forth between the two. In coming to grips with these two very general questions we will focus on three fundamental, but slightly more specific, questions: (i) What does morality demand? (ii) Under what conditions are we responsible for our success or failure in living up to these demands? and (iii) What connection is there between our being moral and our living a good (satisfying, fulfilling) life? The first calls for a theory of morality, the second requires a theory of moral responsibility, and the third asks for an answer to an age-old question: why should I be moral? We will, pretty much, be taking these questions in reverse order This course meets twice a week for 50 minute lectures, and once a week for 50 minute precept.
Learning From Classroom InstructionMost of the learning in this course comes from the lectures and precepts, which discuss the assigned readings.
Learning For and From AssignmentsYou will have two in class ini exams, an essay exam, a short paper, two critical evaluations of other students' papers, and a long Dean's Date paper. These assignments help you learn how to write a critical philosophical essay, and how to critique other essays.
External Resources1. Plato, The Republic (recommended: Reeve revision of Grube's translation; Hackett Publishing). ISBN: 978-0-87220-136-1. Jowett’s translation is available on line here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/598 2. Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics (recommended: Irwin's translation; Hackett Publishing). ISBN: 978-0-87220-464-5. Peter’s translation is available on line here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/aristotle-the-nicomachean-ethics 3. Mill, Utilitarianism (Hackett Publishing). ISBN: 978-0-87220-605-2. An edition is available on line here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/mill-boll-48-j-s-millutilitarianism-1863 4. Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysic of Morals (recommended: Ellington's translation; Hackett Publishing). ISBN: 978-0-87220-166-8. Semple’s translation (as Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals) is available here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/kant-the-metaphysics-of-ethics
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis is a great introductory course to philosophy, and also to the study of morality. If you are interested in understanding how and why morality exists, take this course!
Introduction to Moral Philosophy