Truth, Beauty and Goodness

Phil A231 (also LSIC A231), section 651 - Fall 2012

William Jamison

THEME: Integrated approach to the study of critical and normative thinking, including: standards of truth in logic, mathematics and science; standards of ethical goodness, and standards for the critical appraisal of art and the beautiful.


The Web of Belief -- by W. V. Quine, J. S. Ullian; Paperback


The Wittgenstein Reader (Blackwell Readers)  
The Wittgenstein Reader (Blackwell Readers)(Witt)
by Anthony Kenny (Editor), Ludwig Wittgenstein (Paperback - Dec 1, 2005)


Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art (Shepp)
by Anne Sheppard
The Fundamentals of Ethics
by Russ Shafer-Landau


Course grades are based on:

 Exams - 50% - nine essays showing an understanding of the materials covered in class and the assigned readings in response to questions, each with a minimum of 300 words,

 25% of the grade will be based on a term project. 

 Attendance  -15%.

 Dialogue  -10%.

CLASS: Hours: TR 5:30P – 06:45P Room ADM-148

OFFICE: Administration and Humanities Building Room 261 see my Current Schedule.

Phone: 786-4458 (office), 694-1023 (home), Philosophy Department Secretary 786-4455. The best way to get a message to me is via e-mail. Please feel free to call my home phone. My web page is located at and my e-mail address is wsjamison@UAA.ALASKA.EDU. All tests and the term paper should be turned in using e-mail. Please become familiar with the links from this syllabus to lecture notes and other sources for many of the topics we will discuss.

August 28: This lecture includes an introduction to the course and description of course requirements. We will discuss: the purpose of doing philosophy, the course readings as an "all you can eat buffet", and what the tests and quizzes will be like.

August 30: The Nature of Truth: Intuition Lecture notes from the class

I. Truth claims: read The Web of Belief (Quine) up to page 49 (end of chapter 4).

A. Mathematics and logic: How do we know 2+2=4?

    1. Nature of deduction

        a. Rules of inference

        b. Deductive proof

September 3-4: Labor Day Holiday (no classes)

September 6:  The Nature of Truth: Intuition

    2. Mathematical proof: read The Web of Belief (Quine) up to page 95 (end of chapter 7).

        a. Axioms (to see Euclid)

        b. Definitions

        c. Theorems

        d. Proofs

    3. The nature of arguments: what makes an argument good?

        a. How to construct an argument.

        b. How to evaluate an argument.

        c. How to defend an argument.

September 11: The Nature of Truth: Language

B. Truth claims in science: why is science often successful?

read The Web of Belief (Quine) to the end.

    1. The assumptions of science.    

    2. The nature of a hypothesis.

    3. How hypotheses are tested.

September 13: The Nature of Truth: Language

The Tractatus - read the Introduction and pages 1 - 30 (Witt)

    4. The character of induction.

September 18: The Nature of Truth: Narrative

The Rejection of Logical Atomism - read pages 31 - 45 (Witt) and The Nature of Philosophy  - read pages 46 - 69 (Witt)

    5. Paradigms of doing science. (Galileo)

September 20: The Nature of Truth: Narrative

Meaning and Understanding  - read pages 70 - 83 (Witt) and Intentionality - read pages 84 - 98 (Witt)

II. Aesthetic claims

A. Is art a matter of taste?

September 25: The Nature of Truth: Comparative Narritiology/ Mythology

Following a Rule - read pages 99 - 119 (Witt) and Thinking  - read pages 120 - 134 (Witt)

B. What is beauty?

September 27: The Nature of Truth: Comparative Narritiology/ Mythology

The Will - read pages 135 - 143 (Witt)

C. What is admirable?

October 2: The Nature of Truth: The winning Narrative

Private Language and Private Experience   - read pages 144 - 171 (Witt)

D. What is considered as art? Cultural contexts of "Art"?

First exam. Take this link to the exam.

October 4: First Exam due. The Nature of Truth: The winning Narrative

Aspect and Image  - read pages 172 - 186 (Witt)

E. What criteria can we use to evaluate art?

October 9: The Nature of Beauty: Intuition

The First Person  - read pages 187 - 202 (Witt)

F. Good art and bad art?

October 11: The Nature of Beauty: Intuition

The Inner and the Outer   - read pages 203 - 215 (Witt)

III. Rightness claims in ethics

A. Basic concepts

    1. Norms

October 16: The Nature of Beauty: Language

Necessity  - read pages 216 - 231 (Witt)

    2. Obligations

October 18: The Nature of Beauty: Language

Skepticism and Certainty - read pages 232 - 244 (Witt)

    3. Ethical principles and rules -- Kinds of principles and their problems

October 23: The Nature of Beauty: Narrative

Sense, Nonsense and Philosophy - read pages 251 - 266 (Witt) and Ethics, Life and Faith - read pages 251 - 266 (Witt)

B. Ethical reasoning

    1. Principle and rule approach

October 25: The Nature of Beauty: Narrative

Why bother about art? - read pages 1 - 3 (Shepp)

    2. Prudential reasoning

October 30: The Nature of Beauty: Comparative beauty

Imitation - read pages 4 - 17 (Shepp)

    3. Casuistry and narrative approaches

November 1: The Nature of Beauty: Comparative beauty

Expression - read pages 18 - 37 (Shepp)

    4. Mixed strategies

November 6: (Election Day) The Nature of Beauty: The Most Beautiful

Form - read pages 38 - 55 (Shepp)

C. How to argue an ethical issue

    1. Developing arguments pro and con

 Second exam. Take this link to the exam.

November 8:The Nature of Beauty: The Most Beautiful  

Art, beauty, and aesthetic appreciation - read pages 56 - 75 (Shepp)

    2. Use of definitions

November 13: The Nature of Goodness: Intuition

Criticism, interpretation, and evaluation - read pages 76 - 93 (Shepp)

    3. The role of truth claims in ethical issues

Second exam due

November 15: The Nature of Goodness: Intuition

Intentions and expectations - read pages 94 - 113 (Shepp)

    4. The nature of normative claims

November 20: The Nature of Goodness: Language

Meaning and truth -  read pages 114 - 134 (Shepp)

IV. Summary: What is the connection, if any, between truth, beauty and goodness; between good reasoning, good deeds, and good art?

A. Classic Western views of the interrelation among truth, beauty, and goodness: Plato's account.

November 22: No classes (Thanksgiving Holiday)

November 27: The Nature of Goodness: Language

Art and morals - read pages 135 -154 (Shepp)

B. Can aesthetic education improve our moral character?

November 29: The Nature of Goodness: Narrative

Part 1 (Shafer)

C. How does art express truth?


December 4: The Nature of Goodness: Comparative Goodness

Part 2 (Shafer)

D. Indigenous views of the role of art, and the nature of beauty?

E. Gender and Beauty: the exploitative uses of beauty. 

Term Papers due.

December 6: The Nature of Goodness:  The Ultimate Good

Part 3 (Shafer)

F. Gender and the matter of ethical reasoning: Kohlberg v. Gilligan.

G. Is logic a species of ethics? Is being rational an ethical stance?

We will discuss the postmodern dilemma.

Third exam is due by December 11. But we have no class on December 11 because of the final week schedule.

December 13 4:00P – 6:45P: Class meets for the last time. We will watch and discuss a movie TBA.

This syllabus may be adjusted at any time to meet the class or instructor’s requirements upon one week’s notice to students. 


This page is maintained by William S. Jamison. It was last updated August 14, 2012. All links on these pages are either to open source or public domain materials or they are marked with the appropriate copyright information. I frequently check the links I have made to other web sites but each source is responsible for their own content.