Academic year
Dan López de Sa
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 1. Practical Philosophy
2020-10-01 - 2020-12-17
Thursdays, 10:00-13:00
Online. Please email the instructor for the link.


Metaethics is the attempt to articulate the presuppositions and commitments of our moral thought, talk, and practice. One of the issues that fall under its range concerns the practicality of morality: the strong connection that there seems to be between something being right or good and the motivation to pursue some course of action. This will give the focus to this seminar. By exploring issues in connection with this will deepen knowledge of connected notions in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, attempting to exert the appropriate methodological sensitivity given the social significance of the issues under consideration.




There will be ten regular three-hour sessions. The format will be that of a research seminar, structured around presentations by students and general discussion, led by the instructor.

This course will be taught online. If you plan to participate, please get in touch with the instructor before the first session of Oct 1 at


Evaluation will be based on the quality of the presentation (10%), of the contribution to discussions (20%), and of an abstract (10%) and a short research paper (60%), on a topic related to the seminar, to be agreed with the instructor in due time.


The purpose is to open the discussion by submitting thoughts, questions, and objections. The total slot for this is up to 10 minutes per person as maximum (less may well be completely appropriate), although people are free to coordinate in the form of joint presentations. If you would like to use a handout and/or beamer, please coordinate with the instructor the week prior to your session. NB: The purpose is not to summarize the paper, that everybody will have read, but to open the discussion, by providing original contributions in the forms envisaged.


Everybody is expected to have read the papers in detail in advance, and to come to each of the ten sessions with thoughts, questions, and objections. We will do our best efforts to comply with the guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion 

Research Paper

Short research papers (absolute maximum length, including footnotes and references: 2500 words) are expected on topics to be agreed with the instructor. Proposals should take the form of title and short abstract (<100 words), stating the main claim/conjecture/working hypothesis, as well as a skeleton of the structure of the argument or line of thought. (Tentatively, as the purpose is to coordinate regarding topic and kind of paper.) All materials are to be sent as attached .pdf files to

(Guidelines on evaluation and marking, including a note on originality and plagiarism, available at

Competencias básicas

CB6 – Students should be able to critically understand central texts in field of Meta-ethics in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.

CB9 - Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.

Competencias generales

CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of interest.

CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in the domain of meta-ethics. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.

CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.

CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.

Competencias específicas

CE1. Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of contemporary Meta-ethics practice the competent application of these notions in a philosophical debate in meta-ethics

CE2. Students should be able to identify the core arguments and theories of contemporary meta-ethics.

CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in the field meta-ethics.

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.

CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in the field of meta-ethics.


Readings will probably include the following (TBC):

  1. Smith, Michael (1994): “What is the Moral Problem?”, in The Moral Problem, Oxford: Blackwell: ch 1.1-13
  2. Stevenson, Charles (1937): “The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms,” Mind, 46: 14–31, also in Facts and ValuesNew Haven: Yale University Press (1963)
  3. Foot, Philippa (1972): “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives”, The Philosophical Review, 81: 305–316
  4. Mackie, J. L. (1977): “The Subjectivity of Values”, in Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, London: Penguin Books, ch. 1
  5. Railton, Peter (1986): “Moral Realism,” Philosophical Review, 95: 163–207
  6. Lewis, David (1989): ‘Dispositionalist Theories of Value’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63: 113-137
  7. Street, Sharon (2006): ‘A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value’, Philosophical Studies, 127: 109-166 (selected parts)
  8. Khoo, Justin & Joshua Knobe (2018): “Moral Disagreement and Semantics’, Noûs52, 109–143
  9. Haslanger, Sally (forthcoming): “Practical Reason and Social Practices”, in Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Practical Reason, ed. Ruth Chang and Kurt Sylvan. New York: Routledge

Other considerations

This course will be taught online. Please email the instructor before the first session for the link to the online sessions.