What makes an action ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Is it related to the amount of pleasure or pain caused, how an action accords with universal laws, or or for reasons stemming from some other, perhaps divine, source? In this course, students will examine some of the major ways philosophers have tried to tackle questions of morality and ethics over the centuries, and will ask whether it is even possible to devise a universal theory of ethics.
The course begins with a look at divine command theory, perhaps the oldest school of ethical thought, which states that what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is purely dependent on what a deity states it to be. It then moves on to discuss utilitarianism and the thought of Jeremy Bentham, who placed pleasure and pain at the heart of moral decisions. We then explore deontology and the thought of Kant, who attempted to find universal laws of morality and ethics, and conclude by asking whether or not such overarching theories of morality are even possible to find and apply. Perhaps, instead, experience of the world and acting upon such experience is what counts.
Quizzes and Exams
Why Take this Course?
This course is ideal preparation for students thinking of studying ethics, philosophy, classics, history, or related subjects at university.
Aims and Objectives
- To understand the key ideas relating to ethical philosophy
- To encounter some of the key thinkers within the realm of ethics
- To appreciate the complexities of ethical and moral debates in the present day
Key Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course students will be able to:
- Understand the different schools of thought that have attempted to explain morality and ethics
- Discuss with confidence the thinking of some major philosophers, such as Kant and Aristotle
- Embark on your own further study of the subject