Alleviate Suffering

Mon, Jan 24

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:


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

APPLICATION TEXT (Access on "Persuall" via Canvas):

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 Jason Trigg's friend, and he comes to you seeking moral advice about his career. Would you recommend the path he actually took? What reasons might you give for or against it?
    • 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.

After you've finished today's reading, make sure you complete the reading quiz, which you can access through your section's Canvas page.

Watch This: