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Moral Motivation
PHIL 344
Spring 2011
Section: 01  

In this seminar, students will explore the systematic philosophical problem surrounding moral motivation, and cultivate their own informed stance toward it. The problem is this: Moral expectations and ideals must be in some sense realistic or realizable; otherwise, they threaten to become irrelevant to ordinary lives. Yet morality always implicitly challenges our actual inclinations and habits. Taking morality seriously means holding myself and others to normative ideals and constraints even when we do NOT in any sense "feel like it". So, how can it be realistic to expect or demand that people do what they are in fact not motivated to do? Is it helpful--or misguided?--to insist that morality has something like reason on its side?

In the first half of the semester we'll read Michael Smith's, which lays this problem out clearly, using classic reference points. The classic reference points include--at a minimum--Plato (who elaborated on Socrates' claim that genuine knowledge just is an inspired love of what is good), Hume (who claimed that knowledge and reason by themselves motivate nothing), and Kant (who posited two separate levels of motivation to account for moral and immoral choices). Alongside classice sources, we may read some brief recent elaborations of those positions, such as Iris Murdoch, Annette Baier, and Christine Korsgaard.

In the second half of the semester, we will ask whether and how long-term efforts of moral education provide any resolution. For this portion of the class, we will draw on Aristotle, the Confucian tradition, pragmatists such as John Dewey, and recent work in the ethics of care. Depending on student interest, we may make brief interdisciplinary forays into psychology, social theory, religious studies, and/or evolutionary theory.

Essential Capabilities: Ethical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning
Ethical reasoning is the focus of this course.
Logical reasoning: this course will closely examine technical arguments.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA PHIL
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (PHIL-Philosophy)(SISP-Phil Ethic)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on DEC-04-2022
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