Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

This is a class about 'ought' and ought—you can think of it as a class in philosophy of language and metaphysics in which the focus is the ethical sphere. Some of the questions that we will broach include: How should we give a semantics for 'ought' generally? Is there anything special about the ethical 'ought'? Is there anything that you ethically ought to do, e.g., give to charity or refrain from stealing? If it is true that you ethically ought to do this or that, then why so? Is there a part of the world—oughtiness—that makes it the case that you ethically ought to do this or that?


MIT students were required to obtain permission from the instructors.

Course Requirements

Students taking this class for credit ought to:

  1. Attend all seminar meetings,
  2. Prepare for each seminar by at least doing the required reading,
  3. Do the assigned reading responses (100–200 words, due the day before each session).
  4. Present your proposed term paper on Session 12,
  5. Submit a 15–20 page draft or a 5 page draft with an outline that details the main arguments to be included in the paper, due one week after the last session, and
  6. Submit your final 20–25 page term paper after the end of the semester.


1 The Error Theory  
2 'Ought' Part 1  
3 'Ought' Part 2  
4 Contextualism and Relativism Part 1  
5 Contextualism and Relativism Part 2  
6 The Open Question Argument  
7 Expressivism  
8 Quasi-Realism and Creeping Minimalism  
9 Motivational Internalism Semantically Encoded?  
10 Some Arguments for Moral Non-Naturalism  
11 Supervenience  
12 Student Presentations Term Paper Proposal due
13 Moral Contingentism  
  No class scheduled Term Paper Draft due one week after Session 13
  No class scheduled  Term Paper due after end of semester