Introduction to Ethics

Course Description

When construed broadly, ethics encompasses questions about moral truth, objectivity, and relativity; questions about what reasons we have to persist in acting morally; and questions about morality’s substance or content. Some examples: Are moral claims mere matters of opinion? Is morality relative? If there are objective moral facts, what are they like, and how can we know them? Can we argue an avowed amoralist into caring about morality? If so, on what basis? What is morality telling us to do, anyway? In this course, we will make a preliminary investigation of these questions and of some important historical and contemporary attempts to answer them. We will also look at some possible sources for skepticism about morality: What if we are, in the end, wholly selfish animals? What if the correct account of the origins of our moral beliefs ends up undermining them? Does the role of luck in our lives undercut our basic notion of ourselves as responsible for our actions? More generally, is moral enterprise hopeless if nature’s course is settled in advance? We will conclude the course by thinking about some central ethical issues having to do with birth, death, and the idea that life is meaningless.

Course Details

  • Grading Basis: Letter Grade or Credit/No Credit
  • Limited Enrollment Details: This course is not intended for graduate students.
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