Course Syllabus: Facts and Values
 

Philosophy 164: Facts and Values

Fall 2005

 

Course Overview

            Value seems to sit uncomfortably in an objective view of the world.  On the face of it, objective reality is describable in terms of facts and there does not seem to be anything recognizable as a fact that would clearly identify (for example) the goodness or beauty of a sunset or work of art.  What is it about a particular arrangement of colors in the sky that makes that arrangement beautiful?  Wherein lies its goodness?  Answers here are not immediately forthcoming.  These problems become particularly acute when the values in question are moral values.  Despite the consensus in some circles that the rightness or wrongness of acts like murder and stealing are as subjective as the value of the sunset, many are reluctant to countenance such a view. 

            This course thus seeks to explore this complex of issues by looking at various accounts—both historical and contemporary—of how value fits into a more general understanding of the world  Throughout the semester, particular attention will be given to moral claims.  However, this attention will not be exclusive and one of the questions to consider is whether there are any differences between moral values and other kinds of evaluative claims.

 

Materials

Plato, Symposium

John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism

Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good

Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy

Course Packet available from The Copy Shop

 

Requirements

Two take home exams (15% each), one 4-6 essay (20%), one 6-8 page essay (30%), and regular class participation (20%).

 

Course of Study

8/24    Introduction

 

“Platonism”

8/29    Plato, Symposium

8/31    Plato, cont.

9/5      G.E. Moore, Selection from Principia Ethica

9/7      Moore, cont.

 

Challenges to “Platonism”

9/12    David Hume, Treatise (1-15)

9/14    David Hume, Treatise (455-476)

9/19    Hume, cont./J. L. Mackie, Selection from Ethics

9/21    Mackie, cont.

9/26    A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic, Chapter 6

9/28    Ayer, cont./Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Chapter 1

10/3    Reading Holiday

10/5    Putnam, cont.

 

“Naturalisms”

10/10  John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (Take Home #1 Due)

10/12  Mill., cont./Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I

10/17  Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, cont.

10/19  Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, Chapter 1

10/24  Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, Chapter 3

 

Critiques of Naturalism

10/26  Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Essay 1

10/31  Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Chapter 8 (Essay #1 Due)

 

“Entanglers” of Fact and Value

11/2    Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good, Chapter 1

11/7    Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good, Chapter 2

11/9    Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good, Chapter 3

11/14  Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Chapter 2

(Take Home #2 Due)

11/16  Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Chapters 3 and 4

11/19-11/27            Thanksgiving Recess

11/28  Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Chapter 6

11/30  Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Chapter 7

 

12/5    Conclusion

 

12/13   (Essay #2 Due)