Normative ethics: moral law, goals and ought
There are many issues related to normativity in one way or another. All these questions at the most primitive level can be divided into two types. In one case, we are trying to find out some important details regarding normative concepts and judgments - semantic, metaphysical, epistemological. Meta-ethics deals with such questions. A typical example of such a question is “What is the meaning of ethical statements.” To the extent that the answer to these questions is not relevant to the purpose of our seminar, we will bracket them. But what then is our goal? What questions are we interested in? These questions concern the prescriptive aspect of normative judgments—the aspect expressed in the famous question “What should I do?”

Maksim Vorobiov

Master Degree in Philosophy, PhD student
Seminar schedule:
  • 4, 11, 18 May at 19.00 CET
  • 1, 8, 15, 29 June at 19.00 CET
  • 6, 13, 20 July at 19.00 CET
  • 3, 10 August at 19.00 CET

The seminar consists of 12 meetings during which the following texts will be read:
  1. The first seminar is devoted to Kant's ethics without regard to its classification as deontological. The Text to be read: Kant, "Groundwork for Metaphysics of Morals"
  2. The second seminar is devoted to patient-centered deontology, and is based on the text by Steiner, H., “An Essay on Rights”
  3. The third seminar, like the second, is devoted to deontology, and is based on the classic work of David Ross, “The Right and the Good”
  4. The fourth seminar is devoted to the alternative deontological approach – i.e. agent-centered: Quinn, W. S., "Actions, Intentions and consequences: The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing"
  5. Next, we move on to consider consequentialism and begin with one of its most famous versions – classical utilitarianism: Mill, J. S., “Utilitarianism”
  6. Another version of consequentialism is ideal consequentialism. Here we read passages from: Moore, G.E., "Principia Ethica" & "Ethics"
  7. In the course of this seminar we briefly examine passages representing versions of consequentialism: Rawls, “A Theory of Justice” (consequentialism of rights), Hurka, T., “Perfectionism” (perfectionist consequentialism), Coakley, M., “Interpersonal Comparisons of the Good: Epistemic Not Impossible" (preference utilitarianism)
  8. Consequentialism is usually associated with utility maximization. During this seminar we look at the version of consequentialism that breaks this rule: Smart, R.N., "Negative Utilitarianism"
  9. In the course of this seminar we look at the unusual interpretation of Kant that brings his moral philosophy closer to consequentialism: Cummiskey D., “Kantian Consequentialism”
  10. During this seminar we look at some fragments of texts describing versions of pluralistic consequentialism: Mulgan T., “The Demands of Consequentialism”, Kagan, S. “7 Evaluative focal points”
  11. In the course of this seminar we look the alternative classification of the regular division of normative ethical theories into deontology and consequentialism: Jens Timmermann, “What's wrong with 'Deontology'”, Brown C., “Consequentialize this”, Hammerton, M., “The Fundamental Divisions in Ethics"
  12. The final seminar invites discussion and sharing of interpretations and possible conclusions drawn from the reading of selected texts.

Main areas of author's interests:
Analytic philosophy, epistemology & metaphysics. Specialization: philosophy of Antiquity, Modern philosophy, philosophical scepticism, transcendental paradigm in philosophy, meta-philosophy.

Read more about the author on
“What should I do” - the answer to this Kantian question is explicitly or implicitly assumed in any of our interactions with others. Moreover, this answer, whatever it may be, is presupposed in any of our interactions with the world that is not purely cognitive - that is, it belongs, using Kant’s language, to the realm of practical reason. In philosophy, various disciplines try to answer the question “What should I do,” but if we strive for the most general answer, we must turn to normative ethics. There are several reasons why we should turn to normative ethics rather than try to solve, bypassing it, the ethical dilemmas that we encounter almost every day.

We can start with the fact that any discussion, including those concerning practical dilemmas, requires the disputants to accept common grounds - otherwise the arguments of the parties will turn out to be (conceptually) incommensurable, and the discussion itself will degenerate into a pointless exchange of opinions. At best, normative ethics helps to find common grounds for such practical discussions; in a not so optimistic scenario, it helps to identify such grounds that can be conditionally considered as general, even if they do not pretend to be an expression of moral law. Another argument in favor of the importance of normative ethics is that it allows, in theory, to identify and separate from each other types of normative arguments, which, with some degree of convention, can be divided into deontic, conventionalist and aretic. Finally, normative ethics may be necessary to formulate principles to govern one's own behavior. In this sense, the goal of studying this discipline is not only in the area of public, but also in the area of private
The planned seminars have a reading format - for each lesson we read texts and share opinions about what we read, justifying them with references to the text. In the matter of presentation, I focus on both a historical and structural approach. On the one hand, I will try to form a list based on the timing of the text and its influence on subsequent discussion. On the other hand, I will try to outline the differences between the main types of normative ethical theories. Due to these circumstances, our seminar will be built around a standard frame dividing normative ethical theories into deontological, consequentialist and aretic. Of course, this is what this frame looks like from afar; when approaching them, one will have to add Hobbes' contractarianism and Scanlon's contractualism. Among others, we will consider texts that challenge the previously mentioned tripartite division - either through a revision of the basis of this division, or through an attempt to combine theories that are usually seen as competing.
— Maksim Vorobiov
Reading List:

1. William David Ross:
[OJ] “The Basis of Objective Judgements in Ethics,” International Journal of Ethics, 37(2) (1927): 113–127.
[RG] The Right and the Good, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930.
[FE] Foundations of Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939.
Secondary sources:
Audi, Robert, 1996, “Intuitionism, Pluralism, and the Foundations of Ethics,” in W. Sinnott-Armstrong and M. Timmons (eds.), Moral Knowledge?: New Readings in Moral Epistemology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 101–136.
–––, 2004, The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Broad, C. D., 1940, Review of Foundations of Ethics by W. D. Ross, Mind, 49(194): 228–239.

2. Immanuel Kant:
Kant, I., 1785, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, H.J. Paton (trans.), New York: Harper and Row, 1964.
Commentary: [KT] Kant’s Ethical Theory: A Commentary on the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954.

3. Bentham, Jeremy, 1789, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

4. Dancy, Jonathan, 1991, “An Ethic of Prima Facie Duties,” in Peter Singer (ed.), A Companion to Ethics, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 219–229.
–––, 2004, Ethics Without Principles, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

5. Mill, J. S., 1861. Utilitarianism, edited with an introduction by Roger Crisp. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

6. Moore, G. E., 1903. Principia Ethica, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
–––, 1912. Ethics, New York: Oxford University Press.

7. Nozick, R., 1974. Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York: Basic Books.
- Hawkins, J.,. “The Experience Machine and the Experience Requirement”, The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Well-Being.

8. Nussbaum, Martha C., 2000. Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, New York: Cambridge University Press.

9. Sidgwick, H., 1907. The Methods of Ethics, seventh edition, London: Macmillan; first edition, 1874.

Additional literature:

Singer, P., 1974. “Sidgwick and Reflective Equilibrium”, Monist, 58: 490–517.

10. Brandt, R., 1979. A Theory of the Good and the Right, New York: Oxford University Press. (N.B. – exposition and defense of preference utilitarianism)
–––, 1992. Morality, Utilitarianism, and Rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

11. Hurka, T., 1993. Perfectionism, New York: Oxford University Press.
–––, 2001. Virtue, Vice, and Value, New York: Oxford University Press.

12. Sen, A., 1979. “Utilitarianism and Welfarism”, Journal of Philosophy, 76: 463–89.
–––, 1982. “Rights and Agency”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 11(1): 3–39.
–––, 1985. “Well-Being, Agency, and Freedom”, Journal of Philosophy, 82(4): 169–221.
–––. 2002. Rationality and Freedom, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

13. Rawls, J., 1955. “Two Concepts of Rules”, Philosophical Review, 64: 3–32.
–––, 1971. A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

14. Foot, P., 1967. “Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect”, Oxford Review, 5: 28–41.
–––, 1983. “Utilitarianism and the Virtues”, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 57(2): 273–83; revised in Mind, 94 (1985): 196–209.

15. Railton, P., 1984. “Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 13: 134–71; reprinted in Railton 2003.
–––, 2003. Facts, Values, and Norms: Essays toward a Morality of Consequence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

16. Sen, A., and Williams, B. (eds.), 1982. Utilitarianism and Beyond, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Scanlon, T. M., 1982. “Contractualism and Utilitarianism”, in Sen and
Williams (eds.) 1982.

17. Singer, P., 1974. “Sidgwick and Reflective Equilibrium”, Monist, 58: 490–517.
–––, 1993. Practical Ethics, Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
–––, 2005. “Ethics and Intuitions”, The Journal of Ethics, 9(3/4): 331–352.

18. Smart, J. J. C., 1956. “Extreme and Restricted Utilitarianism”, The Philosophical Quarterly, 6: 344–54.
–––, 1973. “An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics” in Utilitarianism: For and Against, by J.J.C. Smart and B. Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 3–74.
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