Term: Fall 2014
Ethical theory is concerned with how human beings determine what is right and wrong to do. It is concerned with the nature of the good, and the idea of value. Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics (circa 400 B.C.) that “Every craft and every line of inquiry, and likewise every action and decision seems to seek some good …” For Aristotle, the good at which political science aims is the highest of all goods, eudaimonia, or flourishing (or, as it is sometimes translated: happiness). Since the time of ancient Greece, philosophers have concerned themselves with how to determine the good and right in varying ways, and there are both recent theoretical and applied ethics. Twentieth-century ethical theorists were concerned with the nature of moral obligation, the status of evaluative properties, the status of rules, normative language, different types of duties, ethical relativism, the question of ethical objectivity, and the nature of autonomy. They also sought to analyze naturalism in ethics, ethical realism, the nature of norms, the nature of responsibility and integrity, the nature of hypothetical and categorical imperatives, as well as justifying and motivating reasons, and the difference between the right and the good. PHIL 2120-01 will look at selections from the history of ethical theory in Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and Nietzsche, as well as a variety of twentieth-century approaches to diverse theoretical issues. The course will conclude with a look at four prominent issues in applied ethics.
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