Contemporary Metaethics

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

This course aims to provide a foundation and an entry point into current debates in metaethics for graduate students in philosophy. In the first half of the course, we’ll work through a textbook surveying the field, introducing the puzzles that metaethics addresses and the main positions taken in response to them. In the second half of the course we will read recent work in a deeper dive into selected areas. We will investigate questions such as: Do moral thoughts and moral sentences represent properties that exist in reality? If so, are these properties “natural” or sui generis? How can different theories of the subject matter of ethics account for moral knowledge? How can they account for the practical action-guiding role of moral judgments? We will emphasize some ways in which metaethics relates to other subfields of philosophy including metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and normative ethics. The seminar aims to provoke active debate at an advanced level, while also providing a textbook-supported introduction to the field. No prior knowledge of metaethics is assumed.

Learning Outcomes: 

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

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of some of the main positions in contemporary metaethics, explain some of the points of contention between them
  • charitably reconstruct arguments the arguments of others, and summarise them clearly and succinctly
  • explain some of the strengths and weaknesses of different positions in contemporary metaethics
  • formulate and evaluate arguments for and against positions in metaethics, both orally and in writing
  • draw connections between metaethics and other subfields of philosophy

30% mid-term exam; 70% final paper. Participation in the seminar will be taken into consideration in cases of borderline grades for each of the written assignments, and may result in a higher or lower grade.


All course requirements must be completed in order to earn a grade for the class.