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

Postgraduate Course: Ethics (PHIL11182)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines to what extent we can find a place for ethics in a naturalistic, scientific picture of the world. The course is shared between online distance learning and on-campus students for blended learning.
Course description We start with the issue of whether or not we have free will. On the face of it this seems to be a precondition for the possibility of holding people morally responsible for their actions, and thus a precondition for there being moral requirements at all. We then move on to examine the nature of ethics, beginning with the topic of moral realism and the arguments for it. We then examine various challenges to the realist view, including challenges from evolutionary theory and neuroscience. We end by revisiting moral realism and asking what difference it makes whether or not moral realism is true.

Example Syllabus:

Free Will and Responsibility
Week 1: Introduction to free will and moral responsibility (Synchronous seminar)
Week 2: Incompatibilism (Synchronous seminar)
Week 3: Compatibilism (Asynchronous forum seminar)

Week 4: Introduction to metaethics,moral realism (Synchronous seminar)
Week 5: Error theory (Asynchronous forum seminar)
Week 6: Expressivism (Synchronous seminar)
Week 7: The challenge from evolution (Asynchronous forum seminar)
Week 8: The challenge from neuroscience (Synchronous seminar)
Week 9: The explanatory challenge (Asynchronous forum seminar)
Week 10: Moral realism revisited (Synchronous seminar)
Week 11: (Asynchronous forum seminar)

The course is shared between online distance learning and on-campus students for blended learning. Online distance learning students on the shared course will first watch a video lecture on Learn and attend fortnightly live seminars using the Collaborate system with the instructor for that week. On-campus students on the shared course will first watch a video lecture on Learn and attend weekly seminars on campus with the instructor for the week. The times and locations of those are available in the course timetable.

Please note students are not limited to watching video lectures or studying the online course materials on the weeks the live seminars will run.

Please also note auditing is not allowed on this course. Students must only take for credit
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Course Start Date 16/09/2019
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Students will be assessed by a 800 word essay plan (10%), a 2500 word essay due at the end of the semester (85%) and successful participation in the on-line activities associated with the course (5%). Failure to actively contribute posts during the semester will result in marks of up to 5% being deducted.
How the participation component will be assessed will be made clear to the students at the start of the course.

End of semester essay word limit: 2500 words maximum (excluding references)
Feedback Students have the opportunity to submit a formative essay by week 6 deadline on Turnitin via Learn. The essay cannot be draft of summative essay but it can be on the same topic.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. grasp of fundamental issues and views in philosophy of free will and moral responsibility, e.g. determinism, compatibilism, incompatibalism, libertarianism.
  2. grasp of fundamental issues and views in metaethics, e.g. moral realism, error theory, expressivism and of some of the implications of evolutionary theory and recent work in neuroscience for meaethics.
  3. critically analyse and engage with literature by key philosophers in this field.
  4. present arguments clearly and concisely both within a classroom context and in a 2,500 word essay.
  5. gain transferable skills in research, analysis and argumentation.
Reading List
Class Readings:
1. Kane, R. (2005) 'The Free Will Problem' in his A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Hoefer, Carl, "Causal Determinism", The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
3. Strawson, G. (1994) 'The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility' Philosophical Studies, 75: 5-24.
4. van Inwagen, P. (1975) 'The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism', Philosophical Studies, 25: 185-99.
5. Clarke, R. (2002). 'Libertarian Views: Critical Survey of Noncausal and Event- Causal Accounts of Free Agency.' In The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, Robert Kane (ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 356-85.
6. Hume, D. (1748) 'Of Liberty and Necessity (in two parts)' in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Tom L. Beauchamp (ed), Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1999
7. Frankfurt, H. (1969) 'Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility', Journal of Philosophy, 66: 820-39
8. Strawson, P.F. (1962) 'Freedom and Resentment', Proceedings of the British Academy, 68: 187-211.
9. Moore, G. E. (1903) 'The Subject Matter of Ethics' in his Principia Ethica, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
10. Cuneo, T. (2007) 'Moral Realism of a Paradigmatic Sort' in his The Normative Web, Oxford: Oxford University Press
11. Mackie, J.L. (1977) 'The Subjectivity of Values' in his Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong London: Penguin.
12. Joyce, R. 'Moral Anti-Realism', The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
13. Blackburn, S. (1988) 'How to be an ethical anti-realist' Midwest Studies in Philosophy 12(1):361-75
14. Chrisman, M. (2011) 'Ethical expressivism' in The Continuum Companion to Ethics London: Bloomsbury
15. Street, S. (2006) 'A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value,'
Philosophical Studies 127: 109-66.
16. Kahane, G. (2011) 'Evolutionary Debunking Arguments' Nous 45(1): 103-125
17. Greene, J. and Haidt, J. (2002) 'How (and where) does moral judgment work?' in Trends in Cognitive Sciences vol 6, 517-523.
18. Joyce, R. (2008) 'What Neuroscience can (and Cannot) Contribute to
Metaethics', in Moral Psychology vol. 3, ed. Sinnott-Armstrong
19. Harman, G. (1977) The Nature of Morality, New York: Oxford University Press, Chapter 1.
20. Sturgeon, N. (1985) 'Moral Explanations', in Morality, Reason, and Truth, D. Copp and D. Zimmerman, (eds.), Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld.
21. Sturgeon, N. (1986) 'What Difference Does It Make Whether Moral Realism is True?' Southern Journal of Philosophy 24 (S1):115-141.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research, critical analysis, argumentation skills (both written and oral). Critical reading skills.
KeywordsEthics,Metaeethics,Free Will,Determinism,Compatibilism,Incompatibilism,Moral Realism
Course organiserDr Thomas Baker
Tel: (0131 6)50 3655
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)50 3860
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