Are there objective moral facts, or should we embrace moral nihilism or moral relativism? Examination of classic answers to this question developed in 20th- and 21st-century philosophy.
This paper provides an in-depth introduction to one of the most vibrant and fast-growing areas of contemporary philosophy. It introduces some of the main themes and issues in 20th-century and contemporary analytic metaethics. Topics covered will include G.E. Moore on ethical naturalism and the open-question argument; A. J. Ayer's emotivism; Simon Blackburn's quasi-realism; Allan Gibbard's norm-expressivism; John Mackie's "error-theory" of morality; internalism and externalism about moral psychology; and contemporary naturalist moral realism.
|Paper title||Are There Moral Facts?|
|Teaching period||Semester 2 (On campus)|
|Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD)||$955.05|
|International Tuition Fees||Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.|
- One 200-level PHIL paper
- PHIL 234
- Schedule C
- Arts and Music
- This paper will particularly appeal to students with interests in ethical theory, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language or metaphysics.
- More information link
View more information on the Philosophy programme's website.
- Teaching staff
Course co-ordinator: Professor Alex Miller
- Paper Structure
In the lectures we will introduce some of the main topics discussed in 20th-century and contemporary metaethics, including:
- G.E. Moore's Open Question argument against ethical naturalism and his own brand of ethical non-naturalism
- A. J. Ayer's emotivist account of moral judgement
- Simon Blackburn's development of emotivism into his Quasi-Realism
- Allan Gibbard's norm-expressivist account of moral judgement
- J. L. Mackie's argument from queerness and error theory of moral judgement
- Internalist and externalist accounts of the relationship between moral judgement and motivation
- Nonreductive naturalist versions of moral realism
The seminars will complement the lectures; in particular, we will discuss a number of the primary texts discussed in the lectures. These are all available in Fisher and Kirchin (eds.) Arguing About Metaethics (details below).
- Final 3-hour exam 70%
- Two 3,000-word essays, each worth 15%
- Teaching Arrangements
This paper is taught via a 2-hour weekly lecture and a 1-hour weekly seminar.
Alexander Miller, Contemporary Metaethics: An Introduction (Cambridge, Polity Press 2013).
Andrew Fisher and Simon Kirchin (eds.), Arguing About Metaethics (London: Routledge 2006).
- Graduate Attributes Emphasised
- Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Information literacy, Research,
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
- Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will acquire:
- The ability to make philosophical analyses and to present and assess philosophical arguments to an acceptable standard
- A broad awareness and grasp of what is at issue in general metaethical debates
- A demonstrated ability to explain and assess philosophical positions and arguments in their own words
- An ability to adopt and defend their own position in metaethical debates
- A detailed awareness and grasp of what is at issue in metaethical debates