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Instructor Class Description

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Nancy A.S. Jecker
B H 404
Seattle Campus

Metaethical Theory

Studies the major metaethical theories, including both cognitivist and noncognitivist approaches. Emphasizes moral philosophy during the twentieth century, as well as contemporary commentary. Recommended: one introductory philosophy course. Offered: jointly with PHIL 413.

Class description

This course aims to familiarize students with some of the central concerns of moral philosophers of the twentieth century. These concerns focus on the nature and justification of moral judgments and the meaning of central terms in ethics.

Among the questions we shall explore are the following: If we call a state of affairs good or bad or an action right or wrong, are we expressing our personal feelings or tastes or are we asserting something about the way the world is independent of our feelings and tastes? Can basic moral and value judgments be justified in any objective way similar to the way in which factual judgments can be justified? What makes actions right? What does "good" mean? Are there "moral facts" to which our moral judgments refer? What is the relationship between reason and morality?

The first and second parts of the course examine cognitivist and non-cognitivist theories of ethics. We study important figures in moral philosophy during the first half of the 20th century, including Moore, Ross, Ayer, and Stevenson.

The final section of the course investigates contemporary debates about cognitivism and non-cognitivism. We discuss the rationalism of philosophers such as Gewirth, Gert, and Rawls, and the expressivism of philosophers such as Gibbard and Blackburn.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Nancy A.S. Jecker
Date: 10/18/2011