Term: Fall 2012
This course will survey the foundations of Western moral thought in order to both (a) develop students’ understanding of – and appreciation for – some of the most influential texts in the history of moral philosophy and (b) foster a critical examination of contemporary moral claims and disputes (such as those commonly found in popular media or online). Accordingly, this course can be said to comprise two major sections: in the first, we will examine the development of several major moral theories from antiquity through the modern age, including (but not limited to) virtue ethics, natural law theory, contractarianism, utilitarianism, and deontological/Kantian ethics. Readings here will be selected from the works of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, and others. In the second half, we will examine the ways in which these theories are manifested in a number of contemporary moral disputes, such as those pertaining to abortion (Thomson, Marquis), euthanasia (Rachels, Foot), world hunger (Singer, Arthur), and torture (Shue, Hill). By the end of the semester, students are expected to be able to identify, understand, and evaluate basic moral claims and, ideally, articulate and defend a coherent position on one or more moral issues in writing.