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 survey of 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 language, philosophy of mind, 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.
Participation in the seminar and leading discussion of a seminar during the second half of the term (20%), an in-class midterm exam (30%), a 2,500 word final paper (50%).