16:730:680:02 - Advanced Topics in Ethics

Philosophy 680, Advanced Topics in Ethics

Fall, 2009

Wednesday, 4:30-7:30 p.m. 

Professors James Griffin and Larry Temkin


NOTE:  The first meeting of the seminar (Griffin/Temkin) will be on Wednesday, September 9 (because Griffin is giving a paper in Italy).  He apologizes and will make up the missed seminar in the course of the semester, as convenient for members of the group. 


Course Description


This course will be divided into two parts.  In part one, James Griffin will present material on the general topic “What is Ethics?”  Specific topics to be addressed are:

Method in Ethics, What Biology and Psychology Can Tell Us about Ethics, “Ought” Implies “Can”: 1. Motivational Limits on Ethics, “Ought” Implies “Can”: 2. Epistemic Limits on Ethics, Newtonizing Ethics: 1. The Idea of an Empirical Ethics, Newtonizing Ethics: 2. The Idea of a Systematic Ethics, and Bernard Williams and the Rejection of Morality.  In part two, Larry Temkin will present some draft chapters of his next book, Rethinking the Good:  Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning.  Topics addressed may include aggregation, transitivity, continuity, the independence of irrelevant alternatives principle, different conceptions of moral ideals, different models for determining all things considered judgments of outcomes, the desirability of neutrality with respect to people, places, and times, and the foundations and assumptions of practical reasoning.


Professor Griffin is Emeritus Professor of the prestigious White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy at Oxford University, and is currently a regular Distinguished Visiting Professor at Rutgers University and at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University. 


Professor Temkin is a member of the Rutgers Philosophy Department. 


Partial Syllabus and Reading List

Week One:

Week Two:

Week Three:

Week Four:

Week Five:

Week Six:

Week Seven:

 Part II of the Class: Temkin's Rethinking the Good:  Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning



Susan Dwyer

2008/2009 Colloquium Abstracts

March 12, 2000
Susan Dwyer (University of Maryland

Title: "Moral Philosophy and Moral Psychology: E, I, E, I - Oh!":

The recent empirical turn in moral psychology raises a host of obvious questions for moral philosophy. Central among these is the question of what relation (if any) holds between (a) the familiar epistemological project of using first-pass moral judgments (intuitions) to test the plausibility of normative theory and principles and (2) the less familiar psychological project of using the same sort of judgments to investigate the cognitive architecture underlying the causal etiology of moral judgments. In order to tackle this question, and indeed to critically examine the philosophical value of empirical moral psychology, I will present a case for acknowledging a distinction between E-morality and I-morality (a distinction that parallels that between E-language and I-language). The distinction has implications both for ongoing work in empirical moral psychology and for moral philosophy.

David Wiggins

2008/2009 Colloquium Abstracts

April 23, 2009
David Wiggins

Title: "Knowing How to and Knowing That"

Abstract: There is more at stake than at first appears in controversies concerning practical knowledge, knowledge-how-to and knowledge-that. In part I, I argue by reference to Aristotle's account of ethical virtue and the practical good that the possibility of an ethos or way of living, acting and being such as Aristotle describes rests first and foremost upon the capacity to learn by doing, thereafter upon a 'knowing how to go on' which depends upon habituation and cannot consist in any kind of knowing whose content is stateable as a proposition.

Part II connects this finding with Gilbert Ryle's anti-intellectualist claim that knowing how and knowing that are mutually irreducible. In this part, I illustrate how these powers of the mind need one another and I furnish examples of the sorts of thing that are achieved in the back and forth between them. On Ryle's behalf, I suggest that the simplest case of knowing how without knowing that is the case where someone learns to do something by trying to do it, then doing it, without ever learning that such and such is the way for him/her to do it. Stanley and Williamson suggest that knowing that can absorb knowing-how-to if we treat one who knows how to V as knowing that this way, way w, is a way to V. I have two reservations. First, there are many cases where it is doubtful whether such a proposition can be formulated. Secondly, their proposal closes over a real grammatical bifurcation among the occurrences of the English verb-phrase know how to. In some places the verb must govern an infinitive; at other places it must govern an indirect question in how to. Once we acknowledge this bifurcation, we see over again how Ryle's two mental powers conspire and collude to bring into being so much that is familiar to us -- and to Aristotle.

Susanna Schellenberg

2008/2009 Colloquium Abstracts

April 16, 2009
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Susanna Schellenberg, Australian National University

Abstract: "The Particularity and Phenomenology of Perceptual Experience"

Any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational views can easily satisfy the second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptual content is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation.

2000 Program

APRIL 28 & APRIL 29, 2000



Friday, April 28, 2000 Saturday, April 29, 2000
Session I 1:00 PM - 3:15 PM

Alvin Goldman
University of Arizona
"Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?"

Moderator: Wayne Riggs
University of Oklahoma

Break 3:15 PM - 4:00 PM
Complimentary Refreshments

Session II 4:00 PM - 6:15 PM

John Hawthorne
Syracuse University
"Contingent A Priori Knowledge"

Moderator: Robert Almeder
Georgia State University


Dinner 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Complimentary Reception

Session III 9:00 AM - 11:15 AM

Hartry Field
New York University
"A Prioricity as an Evaluative Notion"

Moderator: Gerald Vision
Temple University

Lunch 11:15 AM - 12:45 PM

Session IV 1:00 PM - 3:15 PM

Tyler Burge
University of California, Los Angeles
"Perceptual Entitlement"

Moderator: Susanna Siegel
Harvard University

Session V 4:00 PM - 6:15 PM

Round Table Discussion

Marian David, Catherine Elgin, Elizabeth Fricker, John Greco, Gilbert Harman, Robin Jeshion, Jonathan Kvanvig, George Pappas, David Sosa, Joseph Tolliver, James Van Cleve, Ted Warfield

Moderator: John Post
Vanderbilt University

Returning Participants:


Jonathan Adler, Earl Conee, Fred Dretske, Richard Feldman, Hilary Kornblith, Jonathan Vogel, Corey Washington, Michael Williams