Alleviate Suffering

Wed, Aug 31

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.  

We have three main learning goals for this day. 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:

Prof. Blaschko's students should read this: Interactive Essay: Utilitarianism (Book II) (John Stuart Mill)

Prof. Christy's students should read and annotate this same text via Perusall.

Do This:

Prof. Blaschko's students: Read and annotate the short "Application Article" on Perusall.

Prof. Christy's students: Read the short "Application Article" on Perusall.

All students: 

  • Make sure you've completed the "How We Argue" (ThinkerAnalytix) course up through lesson 1 by today's class.
  • 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:


In class today, we'll introduce a new assignment that involves taking the "How We Argue" from ThinkerAnalytix (a non-profit that started at Harvard and aims to help people develop critical thinking skills). Watch this short introduction for an overview of the course, and why Nate -- the lead instructor for the "How We Argue" course -- thinks you should be very excited to take it: