Philosophy 2

Summer 2014 Session A

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
2 Individual Morality & Social Justice Gibson MTuWTh 10-12 123 Wheeler

When we think about how we ought to live it is perfectly natural to ask what features of the world make claims on us and give us reasons to do certain things rather than other things. Some of these features of the world seem to have a special importance, and to give rise to special reasons: that there is gratuitous suffering; that there are people we can help at very little cost to ourselves; that some are worse off than others through no fault of their own. These observations seem to give rise to special moral reasons for acting. But what is the nature of these reasons, and what sorts of facts about the world give rise to them? Is it even correct to think that there are such facts and reasons? If there are, how can this be? In virtue of what are right actions right, wrong actions wrong? This course is an introduction to philosophical investigation of these questions. No previous experience in philosophy is required or will be assumed. The course will begin by examining a historically central question in the domain – Why be moral? – and then proceed to ask questions about the nature of moral discourse: Are there objective ethical truths, or are all ethical claims personally or socially relative? Are ethical claims true or false like ordinary claims about the way the world is? What is the nature of moral disagreement? Then we will move on to to discuss particular theories about the content of morality. What make right actions right? What is the relationship between what is right and what is valuable? Is there one supreme duty? Lastly, we will extend this investigation into the political domain, focusing on the value of equality. What is the nature of equality? Is there some understanding of it according to which it is valuable that people be made equal, even if it imposes costs on others? Or can our aversion to great inequality be accounted for by other values? Other issues in the applied and political domains will be addressed, time permitting.