|Individual Morality & Social Justice
This class is an introduction to moral and political philosophy that will cover three general areas. First, we will examine Utilitarianism, a divisive theory of normative ethics that will provide us the opportunity to learn and practice techniques for constructing and evaluating moral theories. Through reading the work of proponents and detractors, we will investigate how to argue for or against a specific theory of what one ought to do, and we will briefly consider an alternative picture in the form of Kantianism. Second, we will turn to some questions about the foundations and objectivity of moral claims, what is usually called “meta-ethics.” Can moral claims be true? Are any moral claims true? True for whom? You, our country, everyone? What could make them true? In this part of the course, we will structure our investigation around a single sustained piece of philosophical writing that explores these very questions. Finally, we will attempt to apply what we have learned about foundations and theories in moral philosophy to a few specific issues that will move our discussion into the domain of the political. These issues will include the moral status of non-human animals, the permissibility of abortion, freedom of speech and expression, and justifications of partiality and nationalism.