Alleviate Suffering

Mon, Feb 15

What's your moral code? Starting with this class, we'll be wrestling with the question of what it takes to live a moral life. According to utilitarians, the key to acting morally is to do whatever will alleviate suffering and promote pleasure in the world. As a result, anything that can feel pain or pleasure deserves your moral consideration. And we might be called upon to make some significant sacrifices if it holds out the hope of making the world better.  

By the end of class today, you will:

  1. Understand what "consequentialism" is, and how it relates to virtue ethics
  2. Understand "hedonistic utilitarianism" (a consequentialist view)
  3. Evaluate differences in how virtue ethicists and utilitarians approach practical good life questions.

Read This:

PHILOSOPHICAL TEXT:

Interactive Essay: Utilitarianism (Book II) (John Stuart Mill)

APPLICATION TEXT:

Join Wall Street, Save the World (Washington Post)

 

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Pretend you are the manager of the firm where Jason Trigg (from the Washington Post article) is interviewing for a job. What do you make of his plan to earn as much as possible and give the money to highly efficient charities? What are morally admirable features of his decision? What might give you pause?
    • How would John Stuart Mill respond to the objection that focusing on earning more to give more will prevent you from developing your talents? Try to find a passage from the reading that supports your answer.

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