PHIL 460: Seminar in Philosophy[Spring 2019]


In this year’s junior/senior seminar, we will be reading some classic papers from 20th- and 21st-century ethics and political philosophy: papers that are exceptionally clear, influential, provocative, and/or profound. By reading these papers, we will explore some of the topics and themes that have been central to the recent study of ethics and political philosophy. We will also consider how to do philosophy well: what is it about these papers that has made them so exceptional? This course is divided roughly into thirds:

  • Applied ethics: We will begin with papers on particular issues: global poverty, abortion, and climate change.

  • Normative ethics: Our discussion of climate change will lead us into a discussion of three major moral theories: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics.

  • Political philosophy and metaethics: Next, we will consider political questions about how our society ought to be organized. We will end by taking a step back and looking at some questions in metaethics, the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about the origin and status of ethics.