The national graduate courses in philosophy are offered primarily for master and doctoral students enrolled at Swedish universities. The typical format is 7,5 ECTS, with teaching concentrated to one week. Please contact your home department for more information about the programme.
Autumn semester 2021
Instrumentalism about Moral Responsibility (University of Gothenburg)
The University of Gothenburg will offer a doctoral course on moral responsibility in September 2021 (week 38). The course is open only to doctoral students. If you are interested in the course, please contact Per-Erik Milam (below), so that we can estimate the number of students interested in the course and plan accordingly.
Summary: Theories of moral responsibility try to explain what it takes for an agent to be morally responsible for their behaviour and when it’s appropriate to hold them responsible for their behaviour. Instrumentalist or forward-looking theories try to justify our responsibility practices, especially blame, as means to other valuable ends. For example, one might defend the practice of blaming agents for their offenses by arguing that doing so encourages them to act better (individual level) or that doing so promotes social cooperation (social level). The aim of this course is to examine and evaluate instrumentalist theories of moral responsibility, from its early proponents in the mid-20th century to the recent resurgence of interest in these theories during the last decade.
This course will cover: -Early instrumentalist theories: early instrumentalist claims and arguments; the motivation for these accounts in the context of philosophical debates about free will and moral responsibility; and normative ethical frameworks often deployed by instrumentalists. Key readings: Moritz Schlick (1939) and J.J.C. Smart (1961). -Objections to instrumentalism: prominent critiques of instrumentalism, both its normative ethical commitments and as a way of understanding moral responsibility. Key readings: P.F. Strawson (1962), R. Jay Wallace (1994), and T.M. Scanlon (1998). -Recent instrumentalist theories: the motivation to rehabilitate instrumentalist accounts in light of recent developments in debates about moral responsibility and the ethics of blame; the parallel development of background normative ethical frameworks. Key readings: Richard Arneson (2003), Manuel Vargas (2013), and Victoria McGeer (2015). -Competitors: a brief survey of prominent alternatives to instrumentalism, including reasons-responsiveness, normative competence, and self-expression theories; the structure of instrumentalist and non-instrumentalist theories. -Applications: contemporary challenges to moral responsibility and the justification of blame (e.g. cognitive bias, implicit bias, ignorance, and difficulty); possible instrumentalist responses to these challenges; possible applications of instrumentalist theories to questions in applied ethics of responsibility (e.g. medical decision-making, criminal law, and psychiatric care).
Summary: The aim of this course is to introduce some of the main ethical issues raised by actions—both public and private—that cause greenhouse gas emission and thereby contribute to climate change. We will for instance consider whether private actions, such as flying and eating meat, causes unjust climate harms. Relatedly, we will discuss whether individuals can meet their obligations by offsetting the greenhouse gas emission they cause. When it comes to public actions, we will examine questions such as how to estimate the total (expected) harm of climate change and compare it to the total cost of reducing greenhouse gas emission; for instance, what role we should give to the well-being (and existence) of future generations when making such comparisons.
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