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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Undergraduate Course: Meta-Ethics (PHIL10019)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIf ethics is the general investigation of what is right/wrong, good/bad, what one may/ought to do, etc. then metaethics is the investigation of the nature of ethical judgments and facts. This involves questions about: (i) the objectivity and psychology of ethical judgment, (ii) the existence, nature and knowability of ethical facts, and (iii) the meaning of ethical terms and the sentences in which they figure. This course will introduce students this area of philosophy, which is an interesting arena for the interaction of moral theory, metaphysics, ontology, moral psychology, and the philosophy of language. We consider a wide range of metaethical theories which may include non-naturalism, emotivism, error-theory, naturalism, expressivism, and fictionalism. Through this, students will gain an overview of twentieth century meta-ethics and exposure to some recent developments. In addition to students interested in ethical theory, this course will be relevant to those interested in metaphysics, epistemology, and the theory of meaning.
Course description The philosophical study of ethics can be divided into three main areas: normative ethics, practical ethics, and metaethics. Normative ethics seeks general accounts of right/wrong and good/bad; practical ethics seeks to answer specific practical questions from an ethical point of view. By contrast, metaethics prescinds from these first-order questions to ask second-order questions about the 'status of morality'. Core issues in metaethics arise in each of the following areas as applied to morality: (a) metaphysics, (b) epistemology, (c) the philosophy of language, and (d) the philosophy of mind. In this course, we consider several traditional metaethical theories, including nonnaturalism, the error-theory, fictionalism, expressivism, and naturalism. We will also consider more contemporary theories that don't fit well into the more traditional categories. These include so-called 'hybrid theories,' constructivist theories, and pragmatist theories.
The goal of this course is not to make you a metaethicist or even for you to develop a full understanding of all of the main metaethical theories. Rather, the primary goal of this course is to develop your critical and analytical thinking skills. You will also develop these skills through in-class discussion and by arguing in your written work for the ideas you find most persuasive and challenging ideas you think are incorrect. Excelling in the course will demonstrate your growing precision in thought, an ability to interpret a text charitably and reconstruct the arguments found in that text and critically engage with those arguments, the capacity to develop your own convincing arguments for theses you find plausible, and anticipate the most powerful objections to your arguments and counter them, among other core philosophical skills. The course should be especially useful in honing your ability to think comparatively about the relative costs and benefits of various theories competing for roughly the same logical space.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Mind, Matter and Language (PHIL08014) AND Knowledge and Reality (PHIL08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students studying on MA Cognitive Science (Humanities) are permitted to take this course without having met the pre-requisites of Mind, Matter and Language and Knowledge and Reality. However, it is advisable that students discuss the suitability of the course with their PT and the course organiser before enrolling.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Mid-term essay of 1,500 words (40%)
2. Final Essay of 2500 words(60%)

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Learning Outcomes
A thorough understanding of the most important positions in contemporary meta-ethics, some of which students will have encountered in less depth in previous courses, others of which will be new to students; an enhancement of philosophical skills, through pursuing contemporary questions at an advanced level; a furthering of communications skills, through presentations and constructive argument in a seminar setting.
Reading List
For an indication of topics and content please see Chrisman, M 'What Is This Thing Called Metaethics 2016. For the full reading list please see the Learn site.
Additional Information
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Course organiserDr Indrek Reiland
Course secretaryMiss Ann-Marie Cowe
Tel: (0131 6)50 3961
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