Ethics

Below are readings and essay questions for tutorials in Ethics. Many of the readings are available online, and all are easily obtained from the college or other libraries in Oxford, but if you are struggling to get hold of anything, email me, as I have PDF copies of nearly everything.

I have divided the reading for each topic into CORE READING and FURTHER READING, with more introductory texts marked with a star (*). Focus on the Core Reading suggestions in writing tutorial essays, and use the Further Reading suggestions as starting points for exploring topics in more depth during vacations. You will find more suggestions in the Faculty Reading List.

The default plan is to cover the following TUTORIAL TOPICS. We start with a week on the question, Why Be Moral?, raising questions about the content, status, and source of morality that we explore over the rest of the term, beginning with two highlights from the early modern period, the work of Hume and Kant. We then spend two weeks on consequentualism and contractualism, positions in contemporary normative ethics drawing, respectively, on Hume’s and Kant’s work. You can choose topics for the last two weeks. Options include the OTHER TOPICS.

I’ve had advice from various friends in putting together this reading list and its previous incarnations, and am particularly grateful to Nadine Elzein, Chris Jay, Ed Lamb, Stefan Sienkiewicz, and Tom Sinclair. If you’re teaching a similar course, and want to make use of it at all, as occasional emails suggest people sometimes do, please feel free. I’d love to hear how it goes!

TUTORIAL TOPICS

  1. Why Be Moral? Egoism and Altruism
  2. Hume’s Ethics
  3. Kant I: Duty
  4. Kant II: Universalizability
  5. Consequentialism
  6. Contractualism
  7. TBA
  8. TBA

OTHER TOPICS

Normative Ethics
Metaethics
Moral Psychology

TEXTBOOKS, ANTHOLOGIES, and COLLECTIONS

There are no set textbooks, but the following are all recommended. Driver (2006) and Fisher (2011), focused on normative ethics and metaethics respectively, are more elementary, and best suited for vacation reading beforehand. Timmons (2012), van Roojen (2015), and Tiberius (2015) discuss the issues in more depth—the last focusing on moral psychology—and may be more useful during term.

Julia Driver (2006) Ethics: The Fundamentals (Blackwell).

Andrew Fisher (2011) Metaethics: An Introduction (Acumen).

Mark van Roojen (2015) Metaethics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).

Valerie Tiberius (2015) Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).

Mark Timmons (2012) Moral Theory: An Introduction (Rowman & Littlefield).

The order and choice of topics is loosely based on that of David Wiggins’ excellent book, Ethics: Twelve Lectures on the Philosophy of Morality (Penguin, 2006). Despite being published by Penguin, it’s not a particularly easy read, and is probably best tackled after the end of term, but it is strongly recommended, especially the nine chapters of Part I, Morality: Its motive and content.

Most of the key readings for each topic can be accessed online, but if you want them in print, you’ll find many of them in the following anthologies. I’ll refer to them below as C&M, SL, and Sher respectively. C&M is the most comprehensive, but also by far the most expensive. You might be able to pick up earlier editions, containing similar selections, for a better price second-hand.

Steven Cahn and Peter Markie, eds. (2016) Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, 6th ed. (OUP).

Russ Shafer-Landau, ed. (2012) Ethical Theory: An Anthology, 2nd ed. (Wiley-Blackwell).

George Sher, ed. (2012) Ethics: The Essential Readings (Routledge).

You’ll also find specially commissioned articles on many of the topics we’ll be looking at (and more besides) in the following collections, referred to below as Copp and LF&P respectively.

David Copp, ed. (2006) The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory (OUP).

Hugh LaFollette and Ingmar Persson, eds. (2013) The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory, 2nd ed. (Blackwell).

Lastly, if you are pursuing any of the first three topics in depth, you might want to look at works by the likes of Hobbes, Mandeville, Butler, Clarke, Hutcheson, and, of course, Hume. Important work by these and other British moral philosophers of the early modern period are reprinted in the following anthology, found in most college libraries, and referred to below as Raphael.

D. D. Raphael (1969) British Moralists: 1650-1800 (OUP, 2 volumes).

TUTORIAL TOPICS

WHY BE MORAL? EGOISM and ALTRUISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Do morality and self-interest necessarily coincide? Why, if at all, might the question be thought to matter? Does it?

CORE READING

*John Deigh (2010) An Introduction to Ethics (Cambridge UP), Ch. 1. The discussion in Ch. 2 and 3 is also relevant, and recommended as Further Reading.

H. A. Prichard (1912) ‘Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?’ in Mind 21(81), pp. 21-37. Reprinted in his (2002) Moral Writings, ed. by Jim MacAdam (OUP) and in C&M.

Philippa Foot (1972) ‘Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives’ in The Philosophical Review 81(3), pp. 305–316. Reprinted in her (2002) Virtues and Vices (OUP), C&M, SL, and Sher.

*Robert Shaver (2002/19) ‘Egoism’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/egoism/

FURTHER READING

We’ll be returning to issues raised this week throughout the term. Regardless of whether you’re exploring them in more depth, you should have at least a passing acquaintance with the way they are raised in Plato’s Republic by Thrasymachus and, especially, the brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus. If you are exploring them in more depth, Williams (1973) is a must-read, arguing, from a broadly Humean position, that the genuine egoist is a psychopath, acknowledging the needs and interests of no-one else, and so poses no threat to morality. Other modern classics include McDowell (1978), responding to Foot, and Parfit (1984), on rational egoism (what he calls the self-interest theory). More recently, there’s Raz (1999), arguing that there is no theoretically interesting difference between moral and other values. Hills (2010) is a good book on the topic, examining various forms of egoism and responses to it before going on to offer what she calls a modest vindication of morality. Bloomfield, ed. (2008) is an edited volume containing lots of useful stuff—see especially the papers by Joyce, Nagel, Wedgwood, and Falk. See also Sober’s paper on psychological egoism in LF&P, and any of the other papers in Section I of Sher and Part III of SL. Egoism, associated with Hobbes and Mandeville and criticised by Butler and Hume, was one of the main positions in the early modern debate. See Ch. 13 of Hobbes’ Leviathan, Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees, sermons I and XI of Butler’s Sermons at the Rolls Chapel, and Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. If you’re interested in looking more closely at these—worth doing for next week’s topic—you’ll find everything you need in Raphael.

Paul Bloomfield, ed. (2008) Morality and Self-Interest (OUP).

Alison Hills (2010) The Beloved Self: Morality and the Challenge from Egoism (OUP).

John McDowell (1978) ‘Are Moral Requirements Hypothetical Imperatives?’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 52, pp. 13-29. Reprinted in his (1998) Mind, Value, and Reality (Harvard UP).

Plato (c. 380 BC) Republic, Bk II, 357a-367e. Various editions, inc. G. M. A. Grube's translation, revised by C. D. C. Reeve (Hackett, 1992). Selections reprinted in C&M, SL, and Sher.

Derek Parfit (1984) Reasons and Persons (OUP), pp. 1-24 and 87-95, and Parts II and III, passim.

Joseph Raz (1999) ‘The Central Conflict: Morality and Self-Interest’ in Roger Crisp and Brad Hooker, eds. Well Being and Morality: Essays in honour of James Griffin (OUP). Reprinted in his (1999) Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action (OUP).

Bernard Williams (1973) ‘Egoism and Altruism’ in his Problems of the Self (Cambridge UP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘The egoist believes that whether some future person will be me is crucial to whether I should care about that person’s well-being. But personal identity is not so important as all that.’ Discuss. (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘To be sure, it is not inconsistent or incoherent to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. But it is contrary to reason.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘There is no imprudence more flagrant than that of Selfishness in the ordinary sense of the term.’ (SIDGWICK) Discuss. (2018)

EITHER
(a) Can it be rational to want to be unhappy?
OR
(b) Are there any states of affairs I cannot rationally will to obtain? (2017)

If Alex is going to be helped anyway, is it merely selfishness on my part to want that I be the one who helps? (2017)

How much turns on the possibility of persuading the amoralist to be moral? (2016)

2. HUME’S ETHICS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What does Hume mean when he says that moral distinctions are not derived from reason? Is he right? Is his alternative, sentimentalist account of moral assessment a compelling one?

CORE READING

*Harold Noonan (2007) Hume (OneWorld Publications), Ch. 6. (If you can't get hold of this, email me for a PDF copy of it.)

David Hume (1739/1740) A Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. 2, Pt. 3, § 3, ‘Of the Influencing Motives of the Will’, and Bk. 3, ‘Of Morals’, especially Pt. 1, §§1 and 2 of Pt. 2, and §§1 and 6 of Pt. 3. Various editions, inc. Oxford Philosophical Texts edition, ed. by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton (OUP, 2000). Relevant selections reprinted in C&M, SL, Sher, and Raphael.

FURTHER READING

If you decide to pursue this topic further, the main issues to think about are (a) Hume’s account of motivation, and his criticisms of moral rationalism; (b) his sentimentalist account of morality; and (c) his account of justice and promise keeping—though it’s mainly the first of these issues that comes up in past papers. While the Treatise is the main primary text, you should also look at his moral Enquiry, Hume (1751/77), where he presents things a bit differently—and, among other things, criticises egoism. Hume thought that it was “incomparably the best” of his writings. Also look at certain of his essays, found in Hume (1777)—particularly ‘The Sceptic’ and ‘Of the Standard of Taste’. Turning to the secondary literature, the articles by Charlotte Brown, Kate Abramson, and Eugene Lecaldano in Part III of Radcliffe, ed. (2008) are good surveys of the issues. Baillie (2000), aimed at undergraduates, is a good book-length introduction to Hume’s ethics. See also the lectures on Hume in Rawls (2000). Hume is commonly interpreted as a forerunner of various positions in contemporary metaethics, as in, e.g., Mackie (1980). For discussion, see: Railton’s contribution to Copp; the articles by Elizabeth Radcliffe, Tom Beauchamp, and Nicholas Sturgeon in Part VI of Radcliffe, ed. (2008); and the entries on NON-COGNITIVISM and QUASI-REALISM, MOTIVATIONAL INTERNALISM, and, especially, HUMEANISM and REASONS INTERNALISM. But you should also take a look at Cohon (2008), arguing that the standard interpretation of Hume as anticipating various views in contemporary metaethics is mistaken. Note that recent past papers have tended not to include questions that explicitly mention Hume, but they do nevertheless contain questions that provide you with an opportunity to display knowledge of his work in moral philosophy—often, of how it differs from Kant’s. See the entry for KANT I: DUTY and the paper by David Wiggins listed there as Further Reading.

*James Baillie (2000) Hume on Morality (Routledge).

Rachel Cohon (2008) Hume's Morality: Feeling and Fabrication (OUP), Part I.

David Hume (1751/77) An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Various editions, inc. Oxford Philosophical Texts, ed. by Tom L. Beauchamp (OUP, 1998). Selections reprinted in Raphael.

— (1777) Essays: Moral, Political, Literary, Part 1. Various editions, inc. Selected Essays, ed. by Stephen Copley and Andrew Edgar (OUP, 2008).

J. L. Mackie (1980) Hume's Moral Theory (Routledge), esp. Ch. III to VII.

Elizabeth S. Radcliffe, ed. (2008) A Companion to Hume (Blackwell).

John Rawls (2000) Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, ed. by Barbara Herman (Harvard UP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Rationality merely requires the efficient satisfaction of whatever it is that we ultimately want.’ Is that so? (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘To be sure, it is not inconsistent or incoherent to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. But it is contrary to reason.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘There is no imprudence more flagrant than that of Selfishness in the ordinary sense of the term.’ (SIDGWICK) Discuss. (2018)

EITHER
(a) Can it be rational to want to be unhappy?
OR
(b) Are there any states of affairs I cannot rationally will to obtain? (2017)

Can Hume’s sentimentalism adequately account for the normativity of moral assessment? (2016)

3. KANT I: DUTY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How, in Kant’s view, must an action be motivated in order for it to have “moral worth”? Is he right?

CORE READING

*Jerome B. Schneewind (1992) ‘Autonomy, Obligation, and Virtue: An Overview of Kant's Moral Philosophy’ in Paul Guyer, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kant (Cambridge UP).

Immanuel Kant (1785) Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Preface and § I. Various editions, inc. revised Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy edition, edited by Mary Gregor and Jens Timmermann (Cambridge UP, 2012). Reprinted in C&M, SL, and Sher.

Barbara Herman (1993) The Practice of Moral Judgement (Harvard UP), Ch. 1, which is a revised version of her (1981) ‘On the Value of Acting from the Motive of Duty’ in The Philosophical Review 90(3), pp. 359–382. Reprinted in C&M.

Christine Korsgaard (1989) ‘Kant's Analysis of Obligation: The Argument of Foundations I’ in The Monist 72(3), pp. 311-340. Reprinted as Ch. 2 of her (1996) Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge UP).

FURTHER READING

The 1970s and 80s saw a resurgence of interest in Kant’s ethics, largely due to the work of John Rawls and his students, Barbara Herman, Christine Korsgaard, and Onora O’Neill. His Harvard lectures on Kant’s ethics can be found in his (2000) book, listed in the Further Reading for HUME’S ETHICS. The first lecture on Kant is of most relevance for this week’s topic, and the second for next week’s, but all of the lectures on Kant are recommended. Beyond that, if you are pursuing the topic in depth, Baron (1995) is essential. Part I addresses the worry—raised by Susan Wolf (1982)—that Kant’s emphasis on duty leaves no room for supererogatory actions, actions that go beyond the call of duty. But see especially Ch. 4 and Part II, addressing the worry—raised by Bernard Williams (1976)—that acting from duty alienates the agent from motives like love and friendship. Arpaly (2003) is also highly recommended, arguing that moral worth is a matter of acting for moral reasons, whether or not the agent recognises them as such. Sliwa (2016) is a recent response. Both discuss the case of Huckleberry Finn, first discussed in connection with the debate over moral worth in Bennett (1974). Note that recent past papers have tended not to include questions that explicitly mention Kant, but they do nevertheless contain questions that provide you with an opportunity to display knowledge of his work. As mentioned above, recent questions relating to Kant’s views about duty and moral worth have often been opportunities to display knowledge of the differences between Kant’s work and Hume’s. See HUME’S ETHICS. Wiggins (1991) is particularly helpful in thinking about the contrasts.

Nomy Arpaly (2003) Unprincipled Virtue: An Inquiry into Moral Agency (OUP), Ch. 3, which appears in a shorter form as her (2002) ‘Moral Worth’ in Journal of Philosophy 99(5), pp. 223–245.

Marcia Baron (1995) Kantian Ethics Almost without Apology (Cornell UP). Ch. 4 revises her (1984) ‘The Alleged Moral Repugnance of Acting from Duty’ in Journal of Philosophy 81(4), pp. 197–220.

Jonathan Bennett (1974) ‘The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn’ in Philosophy 49(188), pp. 123–134.

Paulina Sliwa (2016) ‘Moral Worth and Moral Knowledge’ in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93(2), pp. 393–418.

David Wiggins (1991) ‘Categorical Requirements: Kant and Hume on the Idea of Duty’ in The Monist 74(1), pp. 83–106.

Bernard Williams (1976) ‘Persons, Character, and Morality’ in Alice O. Rorty, ed. The Identity of Persons (University of California Press). Reprinted in his (1981) Moral Luck (Cambridge UP) and Sher.

Susan Wolf (1982) ‘Moral Saints’ in Journal of Philosophy 79(8), pp. 419-39. Reprinted in Roger Crisp and Michael Slote, eds. (1997) Virtue Ethics (OUP), as well as C&M, SL, and Sher.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Rationality merely requires the efficient satisfaction of whatever it is that we ultimately want.’ Is that so? (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘To be sure, it is not inconsistent or incoherent to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. But it is contrary to reason.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘There is no imprudence more flagrant than that of Selfishness in the ordinary sense of the term.’ (SIDGWICK) Discuss. (2018)

Is there a moral duty to do as one’s conscience dictates? (2017)

EITHER
(a) ‘Even if the Categorical Imperative gets the moral prescriptions right, Kant doesn’t have a satisfactory account of why these are the prescriptions.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘Acting from duty seems to me to be crucial to morally good conduct.’ (MARCIA BARON) Is it? (2016)

4. KANT II: UNIVERSALIZABILITY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is the relationship between subsidiary moral principles (such as prohibitions on lying and suicide) and the “universal law” version of Kant’s categorical imperative? In particular, can the former soundly be derived from the latter? If not, what implications does this have for Kant’s moral philosophy?

CORE READING

*Thomas Hill Jr. (2006) ‘Kantian Normative Ethics’ in Copp.

Immanuel Kant (1785) Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, §§ I and II. Various editions, inc. revised Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy edition, edited by Mary Gregor and Jens Timmermann (Cambridge UP, 2012). Reprinted in C&M, SL, and Sher.

Christine Korsgaard (1996) Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge UP), Ch. 3. Originally published as her (1985) ‘Kant's Formula of Universal Law’ in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 66(1-2), pp. 24-47, and reprinted in SL.

Allen W. Wood (1999) Kant's Ethical Thought (Cambridge UP), Ch. 3.

FURTHER READING

O’Neill (1985) and Herman (1985) are two influential pieces on universalizability. O’Neill argues that, properly understood, Kantian universalization yields substantive constraints on action, while Herman argues that its use in moral deliberation presupposes knowledge of rules that guide the agent in the perception of morally relevant features of the circumstances in which the agent acts, and goes on to argue that this helps address various criticisms that have been pressed against Kantian approaches. The rest of Part I of Wood (1999) develops a reading that opposes what he sees as the caricature of Kant as a rule fetishist who offers little more than an “ethical sausage-machine” for outputting right actions. He sets out the essentials of this reading in Wood (2017), an excellent, short book that focuses on the various formulas of the Categorical Imperative that Kant gives in the Groundwork. Other pieces that are useful in thinking about Kant’s formulas include: Parfit (2011), a fairly exhaustive investigation of the different interpretations of the Formulas of Universal Law and Laws of Nature; the rest of Part One of Korsgaard (1996); and the lectures on Kant in Rawls (2000), listed in the Further Reading for HUME’S ETHICS. You’ll find discussion of all the issues raised over the last two weeks in Hill Jr., ed. (2009), an accessible collection of articles on Kant’s ethics, and Timmermann (2007), just one of many commentaries on Kant’s Groundwork, but one that I have found helpful. As mentioned above, recent past papers have tended not include questions that explicitly mention Kant, but they still contain questions that provide you with an opportunity to display knowledge of his work. It’s a good idea, however, to think more generally about universalizability, not just as it occurs in Kant’s moral philosophy. To this end, you might start by having a look at the discussion in Wiggins (1987).

Barbara Herman (1985) ‘The Practice of Moral Judgement’ in Journal of Philosophy 82(8), pp. 414-36. Reprinted as Ch. 4 of her (1993) The Practice of Moral Judgement (Harvard UP).

*Thomas Hill Jr., ed. (2009) The Blackwell Guide to Kant's Ethics (Blackwell).

Onora O'Neill (1985) ‘Consistency in Action’ in Nelson Potter and Mark Timmons, eds. Universality and Morality (Reidel), pp. 159-86. Reprinted in her (1989) Constructions of Reason (Cambridge UP).

Derek Parfit (2011) On What Matters (OUP), Vol. 1, Ch. 12.

Jens Timmermann (2007) Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: A Commentary (Cambridge UP).

David Wiggins (1987) ‘Universalizability, Impartiality, Truth’ in his (2002) Needs, Values, Truth, 3rd edition (OUP).

Allen W. Wood (2017) Formulas of the Moral Law (Cambridge UP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What does it mean to treat humanity always as an end in itself and never as a mere means? Is this a plausible moral requirement? (2019)

Is there any important relation between being able to will one’s maxim as a universal law and treating humanity as an end in itself? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Can it be rational to want to be unhappy?
OR
(b) Are there any states of affairs I cannot rationally will to obtain? (2017)

EITHER
(a) ‘Even if the Categorical Imperative gets the moral prescriptions right, Kant doesn’t have a satisfactory account of why these are the prescriptions.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘Acting from duty seems to me to be crucial to morally good conduct.’ (MARCIA BARON) Is it? (2016)

5. CONSEQUENTIALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What are the strongest arguments for and against consequentialism? Are any of these arguments decisive?

CORE READING

*Samuel Scheffler (1988) 'Introduction' to Samuel Scheffler, ed. Consequentialism and its Critics (OUP), pp. 1-13. I refer to this collection as Scheffler below.

Peter Singer (1972) 'Famine, Affluence, and Morality' in Philosophy & Public Affairs 1(3), pp. 229-43. Reprinted in both Sher and SL.

Bernard Williams (1973) 'A Critique of Utilitarianism' in J. J. C. Smart and Bernard Williams Utilitarianism: For and Against (Cambridge UP), esp. §§3-5. Reprinted in Scheffler (as 'Consequentialism and Integrity') and Sher.

Samuel Scheffler (1982) The Rejection of Consequentialism: A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions (OUP), pp. 1-22 and, if you have time, pp. 55-70.

Peter Railton (1984) ‘Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality’ in Philosophy & Public Affairs 13(2), pp. 134–171. Reprinted in his (2003) Facts, Values, and Norms (Cambridge UP), Scheffler, Sher, and SL.

FURTHER READING

Many of you will be familiar with consequentialism from your first year study of Mill’s Utilitarianism, but in case you aren’t, Sinnott-Armstrong (2003/15) will get you up to speed. In further study, your main task will be to get a handle on how consequentialists have responded to various objections to their view, especially the demandingness objection. One strategy is to argue that it is not unreasonable for a morality to make the sorts of extreme demands that consequentialism is alleged to make. This is Singer’s strategy. It’s also the strategy pursued by Kagan (1989), a particularly influential book, which is well worth prioritising in further study of this week’s topic. Ashford (2000) pursues a similar line in response to Williams’ integrity objection. §2.1 of Mulgan (2001) critically discusses the strategy, which, following Kagan, he calls extremism, while Cullity (1994) is a response to Singer (1972). Another strategy is to deny that consequentialism gives rise to extreme demands in the first place. Jackson (1991) is an influential attempt of this sort, arguing that, since we can be more certain of maximizing utility if we focus our efforts on those closest to us, consequentialism does not require us to make the sorts of great personal sacrifice that its opponents sometimes claim. See §2.2 of Mulgan (2001) for critical discussion. Perhaps the most common strategy, however, is to argue that potential conflict with common-sense morality can be addressed by some variant of consequentialism. Scheffler (1982) and Railton (1984), in the Core Reading, are instances of this strategy, arguing that conflicts can be addressed by, respectively, hybrid or indirect forms of consequentialism. Kagan (1989) discusses Scheffler (see esp. Ch. 1 and 7), while Mason (1998) defends Railton. Hooker’s contribution to LF&P pursues this line too, arguing that rule-consequentialism addresses the worry, while Norcross (2006) argues for a scalar approach. For critical discussion, see Mulgan (2001), starting with §2.3. Sobel (2007) takes a different line altogether, arguing that the demandingness objection depends for its force on prior non-consequentialist conclusions that need to be independently motivated.

Elizabeth Ashford (2000) 'Utilitarianism, Integrity, and Partiality' in Journal of Philosophy 97(8), pp. 421-39.

Garrett Cullity (1994) 'International Aid and the Scope of Kindness' in Ethics 105(1), pp. 99–127.

Frank Jackson (1991) 'Decision-Theoretic Consequentialism and the Nearest and Dearest Objection' in Ethics 101(3), pp. 461-82.

Shelly Kagan (1989) The Limits of Morality (OUP).

Elinor Mason (1998) 'Can an Indirect Consequentialist Be a Real Friend?' in Ethics 108(2), pp. 386-93.

Tim Mulgan (2001) The Demands of Consequentialism (OUP), esp. Ch. 1 and 2.

Alistair Norcross (2006) 'The Scalar Approach to Utilitarianism' in Henry West, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Mill’s Utilitarianism (Blackwell), pp. 217-32.

*Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (2003/15) 'Consequentialism' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/consequentialism/.

David Sobel (2007) 'The Impotence of the Demandingness Objection' in Philosophers' Imprint 7(8), pp. 1-17.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) ‘There exists no plausible theoretical account of how we could fail to be obligated to bring about the best available outcome whenever doing so is permissible. Therefore, the objection that consequentialism is too demanding is ineffective.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘There exists no plausible theoretical account of how it could be wrong to harm others if we thereby bring about the best available outcome. Therefore, the objection that consequentialism is too permissive is ineffective.’ Discuss. (2019)

Do demandingness objections to consequentialism illicitly assume that a moral requirement to φ implies an all-things-considered requirement to φ? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Is satisficing consequentialism an adequate response to the worry that maximising consequentialism is too demanding?
OR
(b) How much of a problem is it that we can’t foresee all the consequences of our actions? (2017)

Does act-consequentialism better approximate the demands of beneficence than common-sense morality? (2016)

6. CONTRACTUALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Does Scanlon’s contractualism provide a compelling account of moral wrongness?

CORE READING

*Elizabeth Ashford and Tim Mulgan (2007/18) ‘Contractualism’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/contractualism/.

T. M. Scanlon (1998) What We Owe to Each Other (Harvard UP), Ch. 5.

Derek Parfit (2003) ‘Justifiability to Each Person’ in Ratio 16(4), pp. 368-90.

T. M. Scanlon (2003) ‘Replies’ in Ratio 16(4), pp. 424-39.

Note that p. 381 of Parfit (2003) contains a misprint. The numbers for Case Two should be 100, 100; 100, 90; and 0, 100. (They are printed as 100, 10; 100, 0; and 0, 100.)

FURTHER READING

In pursuing this topic in more depth, start by trying to get clear on what exactly the view is. It’s useful here to think about the objection that Scanlon’s contractualism is explanatorily redundant. Stratton-Lake (2003) explains why initial formulations of this objection were based on a misunderstanding, argues that the objection nevertheless re-emerges, and then goes on to offer a solution. Read that, and then read Ridge (2003), which argues that Scanlon cannot avail himself of Stratton-Lake’s solution to the “new and improved” redundancy objection without giving up some of his central commitments, but that contractualism’s not vulnerable to the objection in the first place. Next, think about the appeal of Scanlon’s contractualism, which lies in large part in its promise of accounts that are superior to those of its rivals of both the content and status of a central core of morality. The debate in the secondary literature debate has focused mainly on the contractualist’s account of the content of morality, and particularly on whether it offers an adequate response to worries about aggregation, demandingness, and risk. For more on the aggregation issue, try Otsuka (2006) and Parfit (2011). For discussion of demandingness, see Hills (2010). For discussion of risk, see Horton (2017). You will also want to think about the contractualist account of the status of morality. For this, Ch. 4 of What We Owe to Each Other is essential. See also Wallace (2002), which is helpful on this and many other issues.

Alison Hills (2010) ‘Utilitarianism, Contractualism and DemandingnessThe Philosophical Quarterly 60(239), pp. 225–242.

Joe Horton (2017) ‘Aggregation, Complaints, and RiskPhilosophy and Public Affairs 45(1), pp. 54-81.

Michael Otsuka (2006) ‘Saving Lives, Moral Theory, and the Claims of Individuals’ in Philosophy & Public Affairs 34(2), pp. 109-35.

Derek Parfit (2011) On What Matters (OUP), Vol. 1, Ch. 17, and Vol. 2, Ch. 21 to 23.

Michael Ridge (2003) ‘Contractualism and the New and Improved Redundancy Objection’ in Analysis 63(4), pp. 337-42.

Philip Stratton-Lake (2003) ‘ Scanlon's Contractualism and the Redundancy Objection’ in Analysis 63(1), pp. 70-6.

R. Jay Wallace (2002) ‘Scanlon’s Contractualism’ in Ethics 112(3), pp. 429–470.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Does contractualism imply that we have no obligations to beings who do not understand what it means to enter into a contract? What does your answer imply about the plausibility of contractualism? (2019)

Can contractualists explain why, given the choice between saving one person from certain death and saving twenty others from certain death, you ought to save the twenty? (2018)

What is the best argument for contractualism? Does it succeed? (2017)

Suppose that you can either save five innocent people or save one other innocent person, but you cannot save all six. Can a contractualist explain why you ought to save the five, all other things equal? Does she need to? (2016)

OTHER TOPICS

Normative Ethics

VIRTUE ETHICS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Are virtue ethicists right to make virtue fundamental in ethical theory?

CORE READING

*Rosalind Hursthouse and Glenn Pettigrove (2003/16) 'Virtue Ethics' in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/ethics-virtue/

Rosalind Hursthouse (1999) On Virtue Ethics (OUP), Introduction and Ch. 1.

Robert Johnson (2003) ‘Virtue and Right’ in Ethics 113(4), pp. 810–834.

Thomas Hurka (2001) Virtue, Vice, and Value (OUP), Ch. 8.

Julia Annas (2007) ‘Virtue Ethics and the Charge of Egoism’ in Paul Bloomfield, ed. Morality and Self-Interest (OUP).

FURTHER READING

Virtue ethics emerged as an alternative to the two main approaches to normative ethics, consequentialism and deontology, in the second half of the twentieth century, but continues to draw much of its inspiration from Aristotle and his Nicomachean Ethics, which is essential reading—regardless of whether you plan on working on virtue ethics in any depth, really. Beyond that, start with Crisp and Slote, eds. (1997), especially the papers by Elizabeth Anscombe, Alasdair MacIntyre, Philippa Foot, and John McDowell, as well as the very useful editors’ introduction. Highlights of recent work on the topic include Swanton (2003), presenting a detailed pluralistic account of the virtues, Driver (2004), defending a broadly consequentialist approach to the virtues, and Annas (2011), developing the idea that virtue is an exercise of practical intelligence. Aim to get a good grip on the various objections that have been raised against virtue ethics. Section 3 of Hursthouse and Pettigrove (2003/16), above, gives an overview, outlining eight different kinds of criticism. Part III of Besser-Jones and Slote, eds. (2015) is also very useful, containing surveys of work on a range of problems for virtue ethics. Many of these are variants of objections pressed against more traditional approaches in normative ethics, and it’s worth thinking about them in that context. One exception to this general rule is the situationist objection, which emerged out of work in social psychology. It is pressed by Harman (1999), and there’s a lot of discussion of it in the literature. Miller (2014) is a good place to start.

Julia Annas (2011) Intelligent Virtue (OUP).

Aristotle (c. 350 BC) Nicomachean Ethics, esp. Bks I and II; Bk VI, Ch. 1 and 5–13; Bk VII, Ch. 1–10; and Bk X, Ch. 6–9. Various editions, inc. Terence Irwin's trans., 2nd ed. (Hackett, 1999).

Lorraine Besser-Jones and Michael Slote, eds. (2015) The Routledge Compantion to Virtue Ethics (Routledge).

Roger Crisp and Michael Slote, eds. (1997) Virtue Ethics (OUP).

Julia Driver (2004) Uneasy Virtue (Cambridge UP).

Gilbert Harman (1999) ‘Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology: Virtue Ethics and the Fundamental Attribution Error’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 99, pp. 315–331.

Christian Miller (2014) Character and Moral Psychology (OUP), Ch. 8.

Christine Swanton (2003) Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Are virtue ethicists committed to the view that those who find it easier to be good are more praiseworthy for being good? What does your answer imply about the plausibility of virtue ethics? (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘Do we really want a moral theory to tell us what to do? Aren’t we losing an important sense in which we should be making our own decisions? Suppose I later come to think that what I did was actually the wrong thing to do … in the moral case there is surely something problematic in the thought that either I got the theory wrong or the theory was wrong, but there is no worry as to my making the wrong decision.’ (ANNAS) Is this a good defence of virtue ethics against the objection that it is not adequately action-guiding?
OR
(b) Can virtue ethicists make sense of the idea that the grounds of our duties to others are facts about those others? (2018)

‘[A] virtuous action is what a virtuous person would do…this is not something fixed but will depend on whether the virtuous person is a learner or more like an expert.’ (ANNAS) Discuss. (2017)

‘The virtuous person does what she does for reasons quite independent of the fact that the virtuous person would do them. So virtue ethics presupposes one of its rivals’ accounts of right and wrong, and thus inherits the very problems that it is supposed to solve.’ How powerful is this objection to virtue ethics? (2016)

VALUE THEORY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘What we never do, and what no one ever has done, is to take into account [in practical reasoning] two kinds of disvalue that pain has: first, its being bad for those who feel it; and, second, its being bad absolutely … [C]ertain pains are bad for us. [So] we can infer that it is not the case that pain is bad absolutely.’ (KRAUT) Is this a good argument? (2018)

‘[B]eing good, or valuable, is not a property that itself provides a reason to respond to a thing in certain ways. Rather, to be good or valuable is to have other properties that constitute such reasons.’ (SCANLON) Discuss. (2017)

WELL-BEING

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Does welfare consist in desire satisfaction? (2019)

Are objective list theories of well-being too insensitive to subjects’ attitudes to the items on the list? (2018)

Which are more problematic: interpersonal comparisons of well-being, or intrapersonal ones? (2017)

What is the best defence of hedonism? Does it succeed? (2016)

RIGHTS and DUTIES

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘There is no need to postulate rights in addition to obligations.’ Is that correct? (2019)

Could someone be owed a duty to φ and yet have no right that the duty-bearer φ? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Can any account of the distinction between justice and beneficence explain why duties of justice should typically be more stringent, when other things are equal?
OR
(b) ‘To have a right is merely for one’s interests to be sufficient to justify holding someone else to be under a duty.’ Discuss. (2017)

‘Being the material for another’s wrongdoing isn’t sufficient to make one a right-holder. It isn’t even necessary.’ Discuss. (2016)

EQUALITY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Just as resources have diminishing marginal utility, so utility has diminishing marginal moral importance.’ (DEREK PARFIT) Does it? (2019)

‘The Levelling Down Objection to egalitarianism depends upon scepticism about impersonal value. Prioritarians are also committed to impersonal value. So the Levelling Down Objection does not favour prioritarianism over egalitarianism.’ Assess this argument. (2018)

‘When distributing benefits, we should aim for equality, not to make the outcome better, but for some other reason.’ Do you agree? (2017)

Is it to some extent regrettable that we are better off than medieval peasants? What does your answer imply about the value of equality? (2016)

Metaethics

MORAL REALISM: PROBLEMS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is moral realism? Are there any decisive reasons for rejecting it?

CORE READING

*Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (2005/15) ‘Moral Realism’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/moral-realism/.

G. E. Moore (1903) Principia Ethica (Cambridge UP), Ch. 1, ‘The Subject-Matter of Ethics’, §§5-13. Reprinted in C&M, Sher (as ‘Goodness Simple and Indefinable’), and SL.

John L. Mackie (1977) Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (Penguin), Ch. 1, ‘The Subjectivity of Values’, esp. §§8-9. Reprinted in C&M, Sher, and SL.

Gilbert Harman (1977) The Nature of Morality: An Introduction to Ethics (OUP), Ch. 1, ‘Ethics and Observation’. Reprinted in C&M, Sher, and SL.

Michael Smith (2013) ‘Moral Realism’ in LF&P.

FURTHER READING

This topic serves as an introduction to metaethics in general, but also to moral realism specifically. It focuses, somewhat artificially, on certain, historically important and otherwise central problems for moral realism. If you are studying the topic in depth, and want to get a good understanding of the range of solutions that moral realists have developed, you should also look at the entry for MORAL REALISM: PROSPECTS. First and foremost, there is a problem that emerges out of Moore’s open question argument: what that argument seems to show is that moral facts and properties must be non-natural, but, as Mackie and Smith, in different ways, try to show, such non-natural facts and properties are problematic. Ch. 2 and 3 of Miller (2013) provide a good initial overview. Second, there’s the problem of disagreement, and Mackie’s argument from relativity. McGrath (2008) is a relatively recent discussion. For more on Mackie more generally, including his argument(s) from queerness, you should consult the entry for ERROR THEORY and FICTIONALISM. Third, there’s the problem of explanation. Harman’s discussion of this prompted a lively debate with the so-called Cornell realists, and Nicholas Sturgeon in particular. See Sturgeon’s contribution to Dreier, ed. (2006), as well as Nick Zangwill’s reply. For a non-naturalist reply to Harman’s challenge, try Scanlon (2014). A fourth problem relates to the fact that our moral thinking has been influenced by evolutionary processes. Street (2006) is a classic on this. For some critical discussion, try Fitzpatrick (2015). Lastly, have a think about how best to characterise moral realism, and what James Dreier (2004) calls the problem of creeping minimalism.

James Dreier (2004) ‘Meta‐Ethics and The Problem of Creeping Minimalism’ in Philosophical Perspectives 18(1), pp. 23–44.

James Dreier, ed. (2006) Contemporary Debates in Moral Theory (Blackwell).

William J. Fitzpatrick (2014) ‘Debunking Evolutionary Debunking of Ethical Realism’ in Philosophical Studies 172(4), pp. 883–904.

Sarah McGrath (2008) ‘Moral Disagreement and Moral Expertise’ in Russ Shafer-Landau, ed. Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 3 (OUP).

*Alexander Miller (2013) Contemporary Metaethics: An Introduction, 2nd edition (Polity).

T. M. Scanlon (2014) Being Realistic about Reasons (OUP), Lecture 2.

Sharon Street (2006) ‘A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value’ in Philosophical Studies 127(1), pp. 109–166.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Does moral realism predict that there should be more agreement about ethics than there is? What does your answer imply about the plausibility of moral realism?
OR
(b) ‘Morality is a useful fiction.’ Do you agree? (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘Mixed normative facts [such as the fact that a particular consideration is a reason] depend on non-normative facts, and which non-normative facts they depend on is a normative matter, determined by the truth of pure normative claims. The truth of pure normative claims…does not depend on, or co-vary with, non-normative facts.’ (SCANLON) Does this solve the metaethical problem of supervenience for realists?
OR
(b) ‘We begin as (tacit) cognitivists and realists about ethics. … Moral Realism should be our metaethical starting point, and we should give it up only if it does involve unacceptable metaphysical and epistemological commitments.’ (BRINK) Discuss. (2018)

Should we be worried that our capacity to make moral judgments is a product of natural selection? (2018)

‘There is no version of metaethical moral realism that can combine both metaphysical and epistemological plausibility, and so the realist project should be abandoned.’ Discuss. (2016)

NON-COGNITIVISM and QUASI-REALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Has the non-cognitivist anything plausible to say about what mental state is expressed by utterances of ‘If lying is wrong, then liars will be punished’? (2019)

How serious a problem is it for non-cognitivists that I can simultaneously feel positive and negative attitudes towards a single object? (2018)

EITHER
(a) Do non-cognitivists have a problem with negation? If so, can they solve it?
OR
(b) Can I affirm that murder is wrong without also affirming that ‘murder is wrong’ is true? (2017)

‘The trouble with non-cognitivism is that only the logic of belief can explain the irrationality of tolerating what one condemns.’ Is that right? (2016)

ERROR THEORY and FICTIONALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Does moral realism predict that there should be more agreement about ethics than there is? What does your answer imply about the plausibility of moral realism?
OR
(b) ‘Morality is a useful fiction.’ Do you agree? (2019)

Is an error theorist who continues to make moral judgments a hypocrite? Discuss the metaethical implications of your answer. (2017)

EITHER
(a) ‘Metaphysicians have no business telling physicists anything about physical facts. Likewise, metaethics must be neutral with regard to substantive moral claims. Error theory violates this requirement. Hence error theory is false.’ Is this a good argument?
OR
(b) ‘Murder is wrong. If murder is wrong, then there are moral facts, for example, the fact that murder is wrong. Hence there are moral facts.’ Is this a good argument? (2015)

EITHER
(a) ‘Anyone who argues against moral realism by appeal to the kinds of explanation proper to moral attitudes is forgetting that there are sociological explanations of scientific discoveries.’ Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘If morality were a fiction, we could not come to know it was and morality still retain its grip on us. So morality is not a fiction.’ Discuss. (2013)

MORAL REALISM: PROSPECTS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘There is no sensible account of what it is to be a natural property such that anything of great philosophical significance turns on whether moral properties are natural or non-natural.’ Do you agree? (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘Mixed normative facts [such as the fact that a particular consideration is a reason] depend on non-normative facts, and which non-normative facts they depend on is a normative matter, determined by the truth of pure normative claims. The truth of pure normative claims…does not depend on, or co-vary with, non-normative facts.’ (SCANLON) Does this solve the metaethical problem of supervenience for realists?
OR
(b) ‘We begin as (tacit) cognitivists and realists about ethics. … Moral Realism should be our metaethical starting point, and we should give it up only if it does involve unacceptable metaphysical and epistemological commitments.’ (BRINK) Discuss. (2018)

Supposing that utilitarianism is true, could we find out that utilitarianism is true in the same kind of way scientists found out that water is H2O? (2017)

‘There is no version of metaethical moral realism that can combine both metaphysical and epistemological plausibility, and so the realist project should be abandoned.’ Discuss. (2016)

MORAL RELATIVISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What is the best objection to meta-ethical relativism? Does it succeed? (2019)

‘The community’s evaluative frame of reference is established by the drive toward sociality plus the shared ways of thinking, feeling, and acting to which members of the community are thereby drawn. Other communities have their own evaluative frames of reference, established by the same force drawing them toward other ways of thinking, feeling, and acting … Hence reasons are relative to a community.’ (VELLEMAN) Discuss. (2018)

Must any plausible moral relativism presuppose non-relativist foundations? If so, is that a problem for relativists? (2017)

‘Even the best arguments for moral relativism succeed only in establishing moral scepticism.’ Discuss. (2012)

Moral Psychology

MOTIVATIONAL INTERNALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

*Connie S. Rosati (2006/16) ‘Moral Motivation’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/moral-motivation/

Michael Smith (1994) The Moral Problem (Blackwell), Ch. 3.

Sigrún Svavarsdottir (1999) ‘Moral Cognitivism and Motivation’ in Philosophical Review 108(2), pp. 161-219.

Russ Shafer-Landau (2003) Moral Realism: A Defence (OUP), Ch. 6.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Is motivational externalism committed to viewing good and strong-willed people as in the grip of moral fetishism?
OR
(b) Could moral beliefs be intrinsically motivating? (2019)

‘It’s a happy accident that, if I come to believe that some act is wrong, a corresponding desire not to do that act invariably follows. And most people are like me in this respect.’ Is this an adequate account of moral motivation? (2017)

‘Evil, be thou my good’. Can motivational internalism make sense of this? (2016)

Is a desire to do the right thing, simply because it is right, fetishistic in any objectionable sense? (2015)

HUMEANISM and REASONS INTERNALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Why, and in what sense, or senses, does Bernard Williams think that reasons must be internal? Is he right?

CORE READING

*Stephen Finlay and Mark Schroeder (2008/17) ‘Reasons for Action: Internal vs. External’ in E. Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/reasons-internal-external/

Bernard Williams (1979) ‘Internal and External Reasons’ in Ross Harrison, ed. Rational Action (Cambridge UP). Reprinted in his (1981) Moral Luck (Cambridge UP).

Christine Korsgaard (1986) ‘Skepticism about Practical Reason’ in Journal of Philosophy 83(1), pp. 5-25. Reprinted in her (1996) Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge UP).

Michael Smith (1995) The Moral Problem (Blackwell), Ch. 4.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

EITHER
(a) Is motivational externalism committed to viewing good and strong-willed people as in the grip of moral fetishism?
OR
(b) Could moral beliefs be intrinsically motivating? (2019)

‘The omnipresence of desires in action is misleading, for it suggests that a desire must form the basis of every motivation. But in fact … [the desire] may often be motivated by precisely what motivates the action.’ (NAGEL) Discuss. (2018)

‘If there are normative reasons for action, it must be that people sometimes act for those reasons, and if they do, the reasons must figure in some correct explanation of their actions.’ Discuss. (2017)

‘To say that they possessed a reason … while acknowledging that any justificatory force of this reason is inaccessible to them as reasoning beings is, I think, not only a misuse of language, but undermines the point of discourse about reasons and rationality.’ (GERALD GAUS) Discuss. (2016)

FREE WILL and MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Is determinism compatible with our being able to do otherwise when we act? If not, what are the implications for the question whether we are ever morally responsible for our actions?

CORE READING

*Michael McKenna and D. Justin Coates (2004/15) ‘Compatibilism’ in Edward Zalta, ed. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edition): https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/compatibilism/

Peter van Inwagen (1975) ‘The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism’ in Philosophical Studies 27(3), pp. 185-99. Reprinted in Gary Watson, ed. Free Will, 2nd edition (OUP), which I refer to as Watson below.

Peter F. Strawson (1962) ‘Freedom and Resentment’ in Proceedings of the British Academy 48, pp. 1–25. Reprinted in his (2008) Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays (Routledge), Sher, SL, and Watson.

Harry Frankfurt (1969) ‘Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility’ in Journal of Philosophy 66(23), pp. 828–839. Reprinted in his (1998) The Importance of What We Care About (Cambridge UP) and Watson.

FURTHER READING

The further literature on this week’s topic is vast. With that, however, there is also a lot of good introductory literature. Gary Watson’s ‘Introduction’ to Watson is very helpful, offering a great overview of the issues, and you’ll find several useful entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia; the Related Entries section at the bottom of McKenna and Coates (2004/15), listed above, provides links. If you want a good book on the topic, aimed at advanced undergraduates, try McKenna and Pereboom (2016). In pursuing the topic in depth, you’ll want to think a bit more about van Inwagen’s consequence argument. The main thing to look at here is Lewis (1981). You’ll also want to think a bit more about Frankfurt’s challenge to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities and Peter Strawson’s account of moral responsibility in terms of reactive attitudes. To that end, Widerker and McKenna (2006) and McKenna and Russell (2008) are useful collections of articles, the former focused on Frankfurt and the latter on Strawson. But the main thing to do is familiarise yourself with contemporary libertarian, compatibilist, and sceptical approaches to free will and moral responsibility. See, in the first place, Chisholm (1964), Frankfurt (1971), Wolf (1987), and Strawson (1994). Then go on and look at the other papers in Watson, using the introductory literature above as your guide.

Roderick Chisholm (1964) ‘Human Freedom and the Self’, The Lindley Lecture, The Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas. Reprinted in Watson.

Harry Frankfurt (1971) ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person’ in Journal of Philosophy 68(1), pp. 5–20. Reprinted in his (1998) The Importance of What We Care About (Cambridge UP), Sher, and Watson.

David Lewis (1981) ‘Are We Free to Break the Laws?’ in Theoria 47(3), pp. 113–21. Reprinted in his (1987) Philosophical Papers, Volume 2 (OUP) and Watson.

*Michael McKenna and Derk Pereboom (2016) Free Will: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).

Michael McKenna and Paul Russell, eds. (2008) Free Will and Reactive Attitudes: Perspectives on P. F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” (Ashgate).

Galen Strawson (1994) ‘The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility’ in Philosophical Studies 75(1), pp. 5–24. Reprinted as Ch. 13 of his (2008) Real Materialism (OUP) as well as in SL and Watson.

David Widerker and Michael McKenna, eds. (2006) Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities: Essays on the Importance of Alternative Possibilities (Ashgate).

Susan Wolf (1987) ‘Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility’ in Ferdinand Schoeman, ed. Responsibility, Character, and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology (Cambridge UP). Reprinted in SL and Watson.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘If a neuroscientist implanted electrodes in my brain and thereby induced in me attitudes that deterministically led me to wholeheartedly perform a certain crime, then she, and not I, would be morally responsible for the crime.’ Do you agree? What does your answer imply about the plausibility of compatibilism? (2019)

EITHER
(a) ‘The freedom discovered in reflection is not a theoretical property which can also be seen by scientists considering the agent’s deliberations third-personally and from outside. It is from within the deliberative perspective that we see our desires as providing suggestions which we may take or leave.’ (KORSGAARD) Discuss.
OR
(b) ‘Arguments for compatibilism based on Frankfurt-style cases face a dilemma. If the inevitability of the agent’s action given the “prior sign” is grounded in causal determinism, then the question is begged against the incompatibilist. But if we eliminate the causal determination then the agent has robust alternative possibilities after all.’ Discuss. (2018)

‘We don’t need to be free; it’s enough that we can’t help regarding ourselves as free.’ Is that so? (2017)

‘The problem of free will has been misrepresented insofar as it has been thought to be a purely metaphysical problem.’ (SUSAN WOLF) Discuss. (2016)

BLAME and STANDING TO BLAME

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘Why should it be inappropriate for me to blame you for doing something I have also done? What you did is no less wrong just because I did it too.’ Discuss. (2019)

‘You’re in no position to condemn me—you did the same thing yourself.’ Is this a good argument? (2016)

CONSCIENCE, GUILT, and SHAME

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Coming soon.

CORE READING

*John Cottingham (2017) ‘Conscience, Guilt, and Shame’ in Roger Crisp, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics (OUP).

Richard Wollheim (1984) The Thread of Life (Yale UP), Ch. VII.

Gabriele Taylor (1985) Pride, Shame, and Guilt: Emotions of Self-Assessment (OUP), Ch. III and IV.

Bernard Williams (1993) Shame and Necessity (University of California Press), Ch. 4 and Endnote 1.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Is there any truth in Nietzsche’s suggestion that bad conscience is ‘cruelty turned back on itself’? (2018)

Is shame essentially bound up with the internalisation of another’s point of view? If it is, does that provide a reason to be suspicious of shame? (2017)

Is shame essentially related to privacy? (2016)

‘Following your conscience is nothing other than avoiding bad feelings about your actions, and is hence egoistic. So we should not follow our conscience.’ Discuss. (2015)