Thursday, 6 December 2007

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Ethics lecture 8 - Mill 2

Ethics lecture 7 - Mill 1

Here's the handout:

Three Accounts of the Good Life

1. Objective list
--a. external list, e.g. God’s commands.
--b. flourishing: objective needs, interests, potential; successful cultivation of human and individual nature.

2. Desire-satisfaction
--a. actual desires
--b. improved desires: reflectively-endorsed desires; or desires I would have if I had full information and rationality; or desires I would have if I were fully developed.

3. Happiness
--a.simple hedonism: happiness = pleasure (and the absence of pain); pleasure = single, simple mental state; good-makers = intensity, duration.
--b. complex hedonism: happiness = various, complex mental state; good-makers = intensity, duration, felt character, causal properties, authenticity… i.e. anything a competent judge would appeal to in discriminating between goods.

Ethics lecture 6 - Kant 2

This recording cuts out just before the end (my dictaphone's battery went). All that's missing is me reading out the last couple of sentences of Groundwork:

And thus, while we do not comprehend the practical unconditional necessity of the moral imperative, we do comprehend its incomprehensibility. This is all that can fairly be demanded of a philosophy that presses forward in its principles to the very frontier of human reason.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Ethics lecture 5 - Kant 1

Here's the mini-handout I refer to in the lecture:

Kant on sources of action:

1. Inclination (desire, aversion)
2. Imperatives (principles or maxims)
-a. Hypothetical imperatives (X is good for achieving Y)
--i. Problematic hypothetical imperatives (if you want Y, you should do X)
--ii. Assertoric hypothetical imperatives (because you want Y, you should do X)
-b. Categorical imperatives (X is unconditionally good, or is right/ obligatory/ morally required)

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Ethics lecture 2 - Hobbes 1

First lecture on Hobbes (Thursday 18 October)

Monday, 15 October 2007

What kind of reader are you?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Ethics lecture 1 - Intro

Here's my first ethics lecture (given Thursday 11 October 2007).


An introduction to and outline of my ethics course this term.

We can only learn to philosophize, that is, to exercise the talent of reason, in accordance with its universal principles, on certain actually existing attempts at philosophy, always, however, reserving the right of reason to investigate, to confirm, or to reject these principles in their very sources. – Immanuel Kant

One pretty good definition of college is that it’s a place where people are made to read difficult books. – Jonathan Franzen
We will use close readings of three classic texts to investigate some central issues in moral philosophy, including whether it’s rational to be moral, the nature and source of morality, disputes between consequentialists and deontologists, and what it is for someone’s life to go well. Our project is to engage with the attempts of three very different geniuses to answer an obvious, pressing, difficult question: how should one live?

Our texts are:

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (1861)


1 - Introduction

2 - Overview of Leviathan; Human nature & human action (Leviathan introduction & chapters i-xi)
3 - The state of nature (Leviathan chapters xii-xiii)
4 - Artificial morality (Leviathan chapters xiv-xxi)

5 - Kant vs Hobbes; Overview of Groundwork; The categorical imperative (Groundwork preface & chapter 1)
6 - The laws of freedom (Groundwork chapters 2 & 3)

7 - Mill vs Kant; Mill vs Hobbes; Overview of Utilitarianism; Welfare (Utilitarianism chapters 1 & 2)
8 - Rational action & self-development (Utilitarianism chapters 3 & 4)
9 - Kinds of utilitarianism; Justice, integrity, & rights (Utilitarianism chapter 5)

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

First post

I plan to use this blog to make some of the work I do as an academic philosopher - giving lectures, writing about books, etc. - more widely available. Partly out of vanity, but also out of the belief that since I'm employed as a public servant to do this work, the public should be able to access it. Hi, public.

Initially, I'll be posting notes on this term's teaching on ethics (aka moral philosophy); when I work out how, I'll add audio files of the lectures. Questions, objections, suggestions for improvements are all welcome in comments.