Philosophy 290-5

Spring 2015

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-5 Graduate Seminar: The Moral Nexus Wallace W 2-4 234 Moses

We will look at the general phenomenon of relational normativity, as well as the specific suggestion that morality might be a unified domain of relational norms. The basic idea is that some reasons or requirements have a constitutive connection with the claims or entitlements of another party. It is natural to think that some of the requirements of special relationships like friendship have this character, and it is also familiar from contractual arrangements within private law. According to the relational interpretation, this kind of relational structure is also characteristic of moral requirements, which are connected to the claims of other individuals that the agent should comply with them. A consequence is that if I violate a moral requirement, I will not merely have done something that is wrong, I will have violated a claim that someone has against me, thereby wronging them in particular.

We will discuss the attractions of understanding morality in these terms, as well as the challenges that the relational interpretation faces. Among other things, we will look at some of the differences between morality and other relational domains, such as friendship and private law, which might lead to skepticism about a relational account of the moral. We will also look at some broader normative implications of understanding morality in relational terms, for issues such as imperfect duties and duties to future generations.

Texts will include relevant work by Robert Adams, Stephen Darwall, H. L. A. Hart, Derek Parfit, T. M. Scanlon, Michael Thompson, Gary Watson, and Susan Wolf, as well as new draft material on the topic of the seminar by the instructor.