University of Nottingham

Philosophical Ethics

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Course Description
What is there to live for? Is there anything worth pursuing apart from money, love, and our own self-interest? How can we live an ethical life? This course is a systematic introduction to the most important and historically influential ethical theories. We will discuss a variety of perspectives, including cultural relativism, egoism, utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. In addition to studying ethical theories, we will also think about various ethical issues to illuminate the similarities and differences between these views. For example, we will ask whether we have a moral duty to donate our money to charity, whether we are ever morally permitted to lie or kill, and whether anyone is ever morally responsible for anything.


Philosophical Ethics

January 21 - Relativism and Universalism
Rachels, The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

January 28 - Utilitarianism
Mill, Hedonism & Utilitarianism
Smart, Extreme & Restricted Utilitarianism

February 4 - Utilitarianism and Charity
Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality
Hardin, Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor

February 11 - Critiques of Utilitarianism
Williams, Critique of Utilitarianism
Wolf, Moral Saints

February 18 - Egoism and Morality
Feinberg, Psychological Egoism
Hobbes, Egoism as the Beginning of Morality

February 25 - Kantian Deontology
Rachels, Are there Absolute Moral Rules?
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

March 3 - Treating Others as Ends
Foot, Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives  
O'Neill, Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems

March 10 - Aristotelian Virtue Ethics
Bennett, The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn  
Aristotle, The Nature of Virtue

March 31 - Moral Relativism and Moral Understanding
Nussbaum, Non-relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach  
Annas, Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing 

April 7 - Ironism, Hedonism, and the Good Life
Wallace, This is Water  
Wallace, Good Old Neon

April 14 - Happiness, Love, and Death
Brickman et al., Lottery Winners and Accident Victims
Moller, Love and Death

April 21 - Freedom, Luck, and Responsibility
Nagel, Moral Luck
Strawson, The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility

April 28 - A Revaluation of Values
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil