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Course Description: 

This course is a graduate-level introduction to normative ethical theory, touching also on some metaethical issues. Our main goal will be to understand and examine different kinds of normative ethical theory: a theory that aims to answer substantive moral questions, such as: What acts are right or wrong? What kind of person should I be? We will discuss the contrast between utilitarian, or more broadly consequentialist, moral theories, and Kantian, or more broadly deontological, theories. We will discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of these types of normative ethical theory, as well as the third major approach to normative theory, virtue ethics, which focuses primarily on personal character. We finally consider the role of theory in ethics, and the demandingness objection to major ethical theories.  

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the nature of consequentialist, deontological and virtue theoretic approaches to normative ethical theory
  • explain various strengths and weaknesses of the different normative theories
  • analyze and charitably reconstruct ethical arguments from readings, and summarise them clearly and succinctly
  • perform their own evaluation and critique of the validity and soundness of arguments, both orally and in writing

specific details in syllabus

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