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Philosophy: Ethics and Morality


Spring 2023

January 23 – May 12, 2023

Clayton Raithel

Friends Seminary





Schools are typically values-driven institutions: teachers try to instill certain values in students during their time in school and beyond. Many of these values (such as peace and community) involve what philosopher T.M. Scanlon called “what we owe to each other”: our sense of obligation to the various communities we find ourselves a part of. In philosophy, the study of such obligations is called ethics, and it has inspired debate not only about what is right and what is wrong, but about where our sense of right and wrong comes from in the first place. Is it right for a healthy person to be involuntarily sacrificed to save five sick people? Our intuition may say that it is wrong, but why? This course aims to explore controversial questions like this one by examining the three “big traditions” in Western ethical thought: deontology (morality based on rules), consequentialism (morality based on the outcomes of our actions), and virtue ethics (morality based on the types of people we take ourselves to be). Along the way, we will consider related questions about morality and ethics, such as whether a belief in God is necessary to have moral truths. We will also consider how debates about ethics have entered into our daily lives, both in terms of globally compelling issues (the ethics of vaccine distribution, for example) and in popular culture (such as in the popular NBC show, The Good Place).


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