THEORIES OF ETHICS AND NATURALISM
Learning outcomes of the course unit
By the end of the class the student will be able to (in accordance with the Dublin indicators):
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 in 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. The second unit will focus on the critique of naturalism in the phenomenological tradition. The third unit will turn to consider some contemporary proposals for a mediation between phenomenology and naturalism.
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)
Husserl, Philosophy as a Rigorous Science (available on elly).
Andrea Staiti, "Unforgivable Sinners? Epistemological and Psychological Naturalism in Husserl’s Philosophy as a Rigorous Science." Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 3/2 (2012), 147-160. (elly)
Andrea Staiti, "The Relative Right of Naturalism. Reassessing Husserl on the Mind/Body Problem",
in B. Centi (ed.), Tra corpo e mente: Questioni di Confine. (Le Lettere: Firenze 2016), 125-150. (elly)
Eduard Marbach, "“So You Want to Naturalize Consciousness?” “Why, why not?” – “But How?” Husserl meeting some offspring". In: Ierna/Jacobs/Mattens (eds.), Philosophy, Phenomenology, Sciences, Dodrecht: Springer. 391-404.
David Cerbone, "Exile and return: from phenomenology to naturalism (and back again)". International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24/3 (2016). 365-380.
David Suarez, "Phenomenological Naturalism". International Journal of Philosophical Studies 25/4 (2017). 437-453 (elly)
Philip Kitcher, The Ethical Project (selections), Harvard University Press 2011. Available on Elly.
STUDENTS WHO CANNOT ATTEND ALL CLASSES ARE ENCOURAGED TO READ:
Jack Reynolds, "Phenomenology and naturalism: a hybrid and heretical proposal", in International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24/3 (2016), 393-412. (Available on elly)
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 during the oral examination. Alternatively, students may require to be examined orally in English or Italian after submitting a two-page critical discussion in English of one of the texts discussed in class.
Assessment criteria and assessment thresholds:
30 cum laude: Excellent, excellent solidity of knowledge, excellent expressive properties, excellent understanding of the concepts
30: Very good. Complete and adequate knowledge, well-articulated and correctly expressed
27-29: Good, satisfactory knowledge, essentially correct expression.
24-26: Fairly good knowledge, but not complete and not always correct.
22-23: Generally sufficient knowledge but superficial. Expression is often not appropriate and confused.
18-21: Sufficient. The expression and articulation of the speech show important gaps.
<18: insufficient knowledge or very incomplete, lack of guidance in discipline, expression seriously deficient. Exam failed.
The research paper topic must be discussed in person with the instructor. The determination of the research paper topic should happen a good while before the chosen examination date, in order to have enough time to write the paper and have it linguistically copy-edited.