Philosophy | Classics in Ethics
P340 | 24864 | Baron


This is an advanced, in-depth examination of some classics in moral
philosophy. We will focus on the work of David Hume, Immanuel Kant,
and John Stuart Mill, but will also read a bit of Bentham and
perhaps a bit of Aristotle, as well. My plan is to read the parts of
Hume’s Treatise on (a) natural vs. artificial virtue and (b) the
roles of reason and sentiment in morality and parts of his Enquiry
Concerning the Principles of Morals that are on (b); Kant’s
Groundwork for a Metaphysics of Morals and some of his Doctrine of
Virtue and Mill’s Utilitarianism. We’ll work both at understanding
their theories and at evaluating them in light of the strongest
objections.

The course will be historically oriented in one way but not in
another.  We will not read their works as if they’d been written
just yesterday, and will not suppose that the questions they were
addressing were the questions that philosophers writing today would
be likely to ask. (Nor will we suppose that they were themselves all
addressing the same questions.) So we’ll read them with careful
attention to the questions they were asking, and the views they were
opposing. But in another way the course is not very historical: we
will not be particularly concerned to trace “lineage”: to figure out
who influenced whom, and how.

An enthusiasm for reading classics will be presupposed. Although we
will be reading some secondary literature, most of the reading will
be 18th and 19th c. works. It’ll be necessary to read with care,
taking notes as you read, to reread (selectively) after we’ve
discussed the reading in class—and to be patient. You needn’t have
studied these philosophers before, but it is important that reading
pre-20th c. work not be alien to you. Feel free to contact me before
the term begins if you want to discuss whether this course will be
too advanced for you.

Requirements: two papers and a final exam (in addition to some very
short assignments).