THEORIES OF ETHICS AND NATURALISM
Learning outcomes of the course unit
By the end of the class the student will be able to:
1. Understand the challenges that a naturalistic worldview poses to ethics and appreciate some of the most prominent philosophical solutions.
2. Apply the concepts acquired by the thinkers examined in class to other areas of ethical reflection.
3. Develop a critical perspective on naturalistic theses in ethics.
4. Present in clear and argumentative manner the philosophical positions discussed in class and master at least the rudiments of philosophical discussion in English.
5. Read and comprehend autonomously complex philosophical texts devoted to ethical reflection.
Course contents summary
Naturalism is often defined as the worldview of contemporary philosophy. The dominance of naturalism in ethics creates various conundrums and problems: first and foremost the compatibility of moral demands and the natural-scientific image of the human being. The class shall present an itinerary through the work of classical thinkers such as Moore, Brentano, Husserl and the phenomenological tradition in dialogue with contemporary scholarship on ethics and naturalism.
The first unit will examine some arguments in the contemporary debate on naturalism in ethics. The second unit will focus on some of the problems of ethical naturalism based on selected texts from Moore's Principia Ethica and Brentano's lectures on ethics. The third unit will turn to consider some intuitionistic alternatives to ethical naturalism in contemporary philosophy and phenomenology.
Literature (available on Elly)
David Papineau, “Naturalism” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/
Kelly James Clark, “Naturalism and its Discontents”, in The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism (Blackwell 2016), 1-14
Gilbert Harman, “Naturalism in moral philosophy”, In: Ethical Naturalism.
Current Debates (Cambridge University Press 2012), 8-23.
Owen Flanagan et. al., “Naturalizing Ethics”, in The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism (Blackwell 2016), 16-33.
Andrea Staiti, “Naturalism as Weltanschauung”, Discipline Filosofiche 27/2 (2017), 131-146. (elly)
G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge University Press 1993), Ch. I-II.
F. Brentano, The Foundation and Construction of Ethics (Routledge 2009), Part I.
Husserl, Philosophy as a Rigorous Science (available on elly).
John Drummond, “Neo-Aristotelian Ethics: Naturalistic or Phenomenological,” in Phenomenology in a New Key — Between Analysis and History: Essays in Honor of Richard Cobb-Stevens, ed. J. Bloechl and N. de Warren, 135–49 (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015).
John Drummond, “Moral Phenomenology and Moral Intentionality,” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (special edition on moral phenomenology edited by Uriah Kriegel) 7 (2008): 35–49.
Robert Audi, ““Moral Perception and Moral Knowledge.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 84: 79–97.
Robert Audi, “Can Normativity be Naturalized?” In: Ethical Naturalism.
Current Debates (Cambridge University Press 2012), 169-193.
Frontal lecture, seminar-style discussion, discussion with invited international experts.
Assessment methods and criteria
One written term paper on a topic to be determined with the instructor. The paper will be subsequently discussed in person.