Philosophy 380 — Recent Kantian Ethics                              9:00-10:00 MWF,  MI 213

D. Vessey                   x2146                                                  Office Hours: 207 MI                                                                MW  10:00-11:00, 2:00-3:00

                                                                                                Th  1:00-3:00

                                                                                                and by appointment


Required Texts:

            Kant, Practical Philosophy

            Christina Korsgaard, Sources of Normativity

            Onora O’Neill, Constructions of Reason

            Barbara Herman, Morality and Practical Reason

            Additional photocopied readings


Course Content

Kant has seen a revival in the last twenty years as philosophers realize both that standard readings of Kant failed to appreciate the sophistication of his view, and that Kant had quite a bit to still contribute to contemporary philosophical debates.  In this course we will look at the way recent interpreters of Kant are reviving and revitalizing his views. We will focus on four areas: Kant’s moral methodology, the general interpretation of the Categorical Imperative, specific interpretations of various versions of the Categorical Imperative, Kant’s account of Autonomy, the connection between reason and morality, and the application of Kant’s view to particular problems (especially lying).



Class Format

As a seminar, the class will be dominated by presentations by the students and discussions of these presentations. Each student will select one of the six topics and make a formal presentation of the reading when assigned in class. There are a total of 9 presentations for each topic.  Part of the presentation will include addressing the motivated questions. Each night before class by 9:00 PM, every student (except the presenter) must send a motivated question to the class listserv:  The motivated questions can range from questions of interpretation to criticism but either way they must be more than mere questions (e.g. “What does O’Neill mean by ‘volitional inconsistency’?”).  Instead they must show knowledge of the context and the importance of the question.  The presentations also must include a two-page handout summarizing the readings, stating the thesis of the readings, and defining all the relevant terminology.   Each person will write a 4,000 word paper on the topic of the presentations and these papers will be read and commented on by the class.  A revised version of the paper will be due at the time of the final exam.  This paper will be edited for the purpose of professional presentation and/or publication. The typo policy—one grade down for every four typos (grammatical errors, spelling errors, improper use of gendered pronouns, or improper referencing quotations)—will apply to presentation summaries reports, the presentation draft of the final paper and the final draft of the final paper.  There will be no exams.



Attendance/participation/MQs:                     40%

Presentations:                                                 30%

Final paper:                                                     30% (presentation draft 10%; final draft 20%)





1. Tue Aug. 29                        Introductions


2. Wed, Aug. 30                      Schneewind, Introduction to Kantian Ethics


3. Fri, Sept. 1                          Schneewind (Handout) Methodology



4. Mon, Sept. 4                       Hill Dignity & Practical Reason Chp. 1 (Handout)                                                              General CI


5. Wed, Sept. 6                       Hill D & PR Chp. 2 (Handout) Specific CI


6. Fri, Sept. 8                          Hill D & PR Chp. 6 (Handout) Reason




7. Mon, Sept. 11                     Hill Autonomy & Self-Respect Chp. 3 (Handout)                                                                 Examples


8. Wed, Sept. 13                     Hill D & PR Chp. 3 (Handout) Specific CI


9. Fri, Sept. 15                        Hill D & PR Chp. 7 (Handout) Reason




10. Mon, Sept. 18                   Hill A & S-R Chp. 4 (Handout) Autonomy


11. Wed, Sept. 20                   O’Neill  Chp. 1  General CI


12. Fri, Sept. 22                      O’Neill Chp. 2 Reason

13. Mon, Sept. 25                   O’Neill Chp. 3 Autonomy


14. Wed, Sept. 27                   O’Neill Chp. 4 Autonomy


15. Fri, Sept. 29                      O’Neill Chp. 5 General CI




16. Mon, Oct. 2                      O’Neill  Chp. 6 General CI


17. Wed, Oct. 4                       O’Neill Chp. 7 Specific CI


18. Fri, Oct. 6                         NO CLASS




19. Mon, Oct. 9                      O’Neill Chp. 9 Examples


20. Wed, Oct. 11                     O’Neill Chp. 11 Methodology


21. Fri, Oct. 13                       Korsgaard Chp. 3 (Handout) Specific CI






22. Mon, Oct. 23                    Herman Chp. 2 Reason


23. Wed, Oct.  25                    Herman Chp. 3 General CI


24. Fri, Oct. 27                       Korsgaard Chp. 5 (Handout) Examples




25. Mon, Oct. 30                    Herman Chp. 4 Reason


26. Wed, Nov. 1                      Herman Chp. 9 Autonomy


27. Fri, Nov. 3                        Herman Chp. 10 Methodology       




28. Mon, Nov. 6                     Korsgaard Chp. 4 (Handout) Specific CI


29. Wed, Nov. 8                      Korsgaard Chp. 12 (Handout) Examples


30. Fri, Nov. 10                      Korsgaard Chp 6 (Handout) Autonomy




31. Mon, Nov. 13                   Rawls (Handout) Methodology


32. Wed, Nov. 15                    MacIntyre (Handout) Examples


33. Fri, Nov. 17                      NO CLASS




34. Mon, Nov. 20                   Korsgaard — Sources of Normativity


35. Wed, Nov. 22                    Korsgaard — Sources of Normativity       






36. Mon, Nov. 27                   Korsgaard — Sources of Normativity       


37. Wed, Nov. 29                    KorsgaardSources of Normativity       


38. Fri, Dec. 1                        Papers Due




39. Mon, Dec. 4                      Presentations


40. Tue. Dec 5                         Presentations


41. Wed, Dec. 6                      Presentations


42. Fri, Dec. 8                         Presentations



43. Mon, Dec. 11                    Presentations


43. Tue Dec 12                       Presentations


45. Wed. Dec, 13                    Review and Evaluations