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Both in philosophy and in everyday life, ethical questions often seem to be particularly difficult to answer: one’s confidence in the truth of one’s own position is often matched by the equal confidence of others with conflicting opinions. In many cases, we eventually seem to have to rely on certain basic intuitions on which we must base our ethical views. But could such basic intuitions be justified, and could we ever resolve disagreements about them?
In this course, we will examine important issues related to these themes. We will look at prominent accounts of intuitions and examine how intuitions might justify moral beliefs. We will also examine the idea of wide reflective equilibrium, how it is differentiated from narrow reflective equilibrium, and whether a theory of reflective equilibrium should advert to a prior theory of justified moral intuitions. An important aspect of the course will be to address the relationship between epistemology and metaphysics in ethics. Specific issues discussed in the course will include the relationship between self-evidence of basic moral principles and a priori moral knowledge, whether moral properties can be perceived, the possibility of empirical moral knowledge, the significance of affect and desire in moral epistemology, empirical challenges to moral intuitionism arising from experimental philosophy, and evolutionary debunking arguments against moral realism. Additionally, we will explore the nature of moral testimony and moral expertise: Questions to be discussed include whether or not there are moral experts, and whether or not moral knowledge can be transmitted purely via testimony.
This workshop-like course will be highly interactive and discursive, offering seminar discussions as well as opportunities for participants to offer and receive feedback on presentations of their research, and to hold individual discussions with our leading faculty. We welcome applications from post-doctoral researchers, young faculty and pre-doctoral graduate students from Europe and beyond with research interests in the areas of: epistemology, meta-ethics, experimental philosophy, and normative and applied ethics. Applications from highly promising masters students will also be considered.