Module I: Are there moral truths? A primer in metaethics



Week 1



Week 2

God and Morality: The Euthyphro Problem

Plato, Euthyphro

Fyodor Dostoevsky, short excerpt Rebellion  

James Rachels, “Does Morality Depend Upon Religion?”  

Friedrich Nietzsche, “Parable of the Madman” 


Week 3 Is it all Relative?

Moral Relativism and its Discontents

Plato, Ring of Gyges

Montaigne, “On Cannibals”  

James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”  

Mary Midgley, “Trying Out One’s New Sword”

Sharon Street, “How to be a Relativist…”  


Week 4

Slave of the Passions: The Many Sentimentalisms

David Hume, Enquiry selections  

Annette Baier, “What is an Emotion About?”  

Sabine Döring, “Why Be Emotional?”


Week 5

Metaethics at “Oxbridge”: 20th Century Analytic Metaethics

Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Waterless Moat”

J.L. Mackie, Ethics Selections

A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic Selections  

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lecture on Ethics



Module II: Utilitarianism and Other Consequentialisms



Week 6

Hedonism and Utilitarianism

Reminder: No blog paper due;

Instead, sign up for Social Pods on Discord here: Philosophy as a Social Enterprise

Jeremy Bentham, Principles  

J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism   

Judith Jarvis Thomson, “The Trolley Problem”



Week 7

Love and the Critique of Hedonism

Reminder: No blog paper due;

Instead, share a 250-350 word proposal of your Midterm paper idea(s)

Send to me (via email) and your Social Pod (via Discord) by 10/15 (or by the end of the week)

Cornel West, “Nihilism in Black America”

Zadie Smith, “Joy”  

Robert Nozick, “The Experience Machine” 

Bernard Williams, “A Critique of Utilitarianism” 

bell hooks, "Greed: Simply Love"


Week 8


Reminder: No blog paper due; Instead, give feedback on at least one peer's paper proposal by 10/21


This week, we will replace our standard lectures with small paper meetings in groups of 10 based on your Discord team color. Bring an outline/progress draft to your team meeting:



Monday: Blue & Orange Teams


Wednesday: Gold & Purple Teams


Friday: Red & Green Teams

Everyone who attends a draft meeting this week will have until Oct 28th to submit the final draft.

Optional Readings (Available for Paper Topics):

Should We Fear Death?

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus  

Lucretius, "The Folly of the Fear of Death"

Thomas Nagel, “Death”  


Module III: Kantian Rationalism and the Ethics of Agency

Midterm Final Draft Due: Oct 28th; No Blog Paper Due

Week 9

The Paradox of Hedonism: Review of Module II


Week 10

Kantian Rationalism


 Basic Readings

Ursula Leguin, "The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas"

Immanuel Kant, Groundwork, Chapters 1 & 2 (Fundamental Principles) 

Overview of Kant's Theory of Motivation


Advanced Readings  

Jennifer Uleman, “Kant’s Theory of Motivation” 

Richard McCarty, “Kant’s Theory of Action”  

Christine Korsgaard, "The Right to Lie" 


Recommended Readings

Recommended: Dostoevsky, “Notes from the Underground”   


Week 11

What is Evil? Rationality and the Problem of Evil

Hannah Arendt, Selections Banality of Evil  

Michelle Kosch, “Kant on Autonomy and Moral Evil”  

Kant, Selections from the Second Critique 


Week 12

Care Ethics and the Sentimentalist Critique of Kant


Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good Selections 

Melissa Merritt, "Murdoch as a Guide to Kant"

Hannah Arendt, Selections Banality of Evil  




Module IV: Ethics Beyond Truth? The Meaning of Suffering and Nietzsche’s Challenge


Week 13

Suffering and the Ethics of Compassion

Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good Selections 

Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Sufferings of the World” 


Week 14

The Death of God and Nietzsche’s Challenge

Continued: Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Sufferings of the World” 

The Four Noble Truths, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, First Essay

Week 15

Creating Values: Who are Nietzsche’s Free Spirits?

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Second and Third Essay 

Nadeem Hussain, “Honest Illusion”