I’m entering philosophy grad school now, but in a few years I’m going to have to start thinking about designing courses, and I’m thinking of designing an intro course around this paper. Would it be alright if I used your summary as course material?
You may also like our discussion sheets for this topic:
Sure! In general you can assume that anything I write publicly is freely available for academic purposes. I’d also be interested in seeing the syllabus if/when you end up designing it.
Definitely, I’ll send it along when I design it. Since intro ethics at my institution is usually taught as applied ethics, the basic concept would be to start by introducing the students to the moral catastrophes paper/concept, then go through at least some of the moral issues Williams brings up in the disjunctive portion of the argument to examine how likely they are to be moral catastrophes. I haven’t picked particular readings yet though as I don’t know the literatures yet. Other possible topics: a unit on historical moral catastrophes (e.g. slavery in the South, the Holocaust); a unit on biases related to moral catastrophes; a unit on the psychology of evil (e.g. Baumeister’s work on the subject, which I haven’t read yet); a unit on moral uncertainty; a unit on whether antirealism can escape or accommodate the possibility of moral catastrophes.
pick one of the potential moral catastophes Williams mentions, which you think is least likely to actually be a moral catastrophe. Now, imagine that you are yourself five years from now and you’ve been completely convinced that it is in fact a moral catastrophe. What convinced you? Write a paper trying to convince your current self that it is a moral catastrophe after all.
Come up with a potential moral catastrophe that Williams didn’t mention, and write a brief (maybe 1-2 pages?) argument for why it is or isn’t one (whatever you actually believe). Further possibility: Once these are collected, I observe how many people argued that the one they picked was not a moral catastrophe, and if it’s far over 50%, discuss with the class where that bias might come from (e.g. status quo bias, etc.).
This is all still in the brainstorming stage at the moment, but feel free to use any of this if you’re ever designing a course/discussion group for this paper.
For #2, Ideological Turing Tests could be cool too.