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Ethics II: Contemporary Ethics [5AANB006]

Convenor: Thomas Pink Lecturers: Raimond Gaita Thomas Pink Module description The module will introduce students to various contemporary problems in moral philosophy, the ethical theories that address them and the historical and intellectual origins of these theories. The course will examine continuing debates about moral rationality, moral objectivity and knowledge, moral virtue and moral responsibility, and the place of morality in human life.

Teaching arrangements This level 5 module is worth 15 credits and it is taught in Semester 2 with 1 hour weekly lectures and 1 hour weekly seminars. Assessment The assessment consists of two parts: 1. summative assessment : 2 essays of 1,000 words each. 2. formative assessment: 2 essays of 1,000 words each.

Ethical Necessity and Ethical Identity (Raimond Gaita) Lecture 1. Morality the peculiar institution In her paper Moral Beliefs Philipa Foot expressed suspicion of what she called the official line in morality. She was suspicious of the idea that morality has an inescapable authority, that whatever authority it has is best expressed in the distinction, more or less as Kant drew it, between categorical and hypothetical imperatives and that a morally serious person would try to ensure that her moral values overrode all others. Earlier, and from a rather different direction and for different purposes, Elizabeth Anscombe suggested, in a paper that is now a classic, that we would do well to rid ourselves of the word morality if we can From a different direction again and more recently, Bernard Williams wrote of morality as the peculiar institution. He also wrote disparagingly of the Morality System. Though in many important ways he and Anscombe could not be more different, they believed that the word morality distorts our understanding of many of the values to which we take it to refer. Or to put the point slightly differently: if we think the task of philosophy is at least in part to construct theories about morality or to elucidate the concept of morality, then philosophy will distort many of the things that it will inevitably discuss -

obligation, the virtues, moral necessity and impossibility, shame and remorse, the importance of voluntary action, for example. To avoid distortion of that kind, Williams distinguishes between ethics and morality. The first lecture and perhaps some of the second will explore these matters Reading. *Williams, Bernard, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Fontana, 1985, chapters 1 and 10. *Foot, Philipa, Moral Beliefs in Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. (First Published by Blackwell in 1978.) Phillips, D. Z, D. Z. Phillips, Does it pay to be Good? in Interventions in Ethics, State University of New York, 1992. Anscombe, G.E.M, Modern Moral Philosophy, Philosophy 33. Also in her Ethics Politics ad Religion, Collected Philosophical Papers Vol III, Blackwell, Oxford 1981. Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Lecture on Ethics, Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXIV, 1965.

Lecture 2. Moral Identity 1 It is a fact, and in this lecture I will argue that it is an important fact, that sometimes when we contemplate a course of action that we would ordinarily call morally wrong a serious betrayal, for example - we say that we could not live with ourselves if we were to do it. I will suggest that this is one way - a very important, perhaps indispensable way - of coming to understand the kind of importance that morality can have in our lives. Must it have that kind of importance? That is a question I will try to answer in the last lecture. In the meantime, I shall look at the nature of remorse and its importance to an understanding of morality. Reading *Williams, Bernard, Persons Character and Morality, in Moral Luck, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981. Korsgaard, Christine, The Sources of Normativity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996. Chapter One. *Gaita, Raimond, Good and Evil an Absolute Conception, 2nd edition, Routledge, London & New York, 2004, Chapter 4, The Lessons of Remorse & Chapter 13, The Repudiation of Morality. (First edition by Macmillan, 1991.) There is an excellent, detailed discussion of The Lesson of Remorse

in Miranda Fricker and Sam Guttenplan Reading Ethics: Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford 2009 Brewer, Talbot, The Retrieval of Ethics, Oxford University Press, New York, 2009, chapter 5, The Primacy of the Good. Williams, Bernard, Shame and Necessity, University of California Press, Brekeley, 1993. Lecture 3. Going all the way Down In this lecture I will return to the idea, variously expounded by Foot, Anscombe and Williams, that moral philosophers distort our understanding of the values that we naturally call moral, when they focus on an alleged special, moral sense of ought. Anscombe said that this sense of ought had no intelligible content, but that the belief that it had sense and that it marked something distinctive to morality, is a reason why many philosophers speak of the special, inescapable authority of morality. I will explore Bernard Williams' suggestion that what we can retrieve from the idea that there is a distinctive, moral sense of ought that is fundamental to our sense of the authority of morality, the idea of a necessity that goes all the way down, whose origins are so deeply inner that it appears to speak to us with an authority that is wholly outer. Reading *Williams, Bernard, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Fontana, 1985, chapter 10. *Williams, Bernard, Practical Necessity in Moral Luck, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981. *Williams, Bernard, Moral Incapacity' in Making Sense of Humanity: and other Philosophical Papers 1982-1993. Cambridge: Cambridge University, Cambridge, Press, 1995. *McDowell, John, Are Moral Requirements Hypothetical Imperatives? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl.Vol 52, 1978.

Lectures 4 & 5. Moral Necessity and Impossibility and Obligation. This lecture will be devoted to an exploration of the kind of necessity or impossibility people express when, in moral contexts, they say that they cannot, or that they must do such and such. I will explore whether these are misleading expressions of the acknowledgment that one is obliged to do or not to do such and such.

Gaita, Raimond, Good and Evil and Absolute Conception, Routledge, London and New York 2004, Chapter 7, Modalities. Fricker, Miranda & Guttenplan, Samuel, Morality and Obligation in their Reading Ethics: Selected Texts and Commentary, Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, 2008. Pink, Tom, Moral Obligation in Anthony OHear (ed.) Modern Moral Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004

Lecture 5. Moral Indentity 2. In this lecture I will continue the discussion of issues raised in Lecture 4 and bring them to bear, via a further discussion of remorse, on a discussion of how we should understand the significance of the claim that if one did such and such, one could not live with oneself.