Cultivate Your Character

Mon, Feb 03

The utilitarians think your moral success depends on the outward consequences of your actions.  Kantians think it all depends on your inward intentions.  Today we look at a different theory, one that assumes that the most important part of being moral is forming your own character.  We'll also consider why we should try to be good -- should we be moral because we want to the social problems that would come with people thinking we're immoral?  Or is there something intrinsically valuable about being a good person?  Plato (Aristotle's teacher) will be our guide on this.

By the end of class:

  1. You will understand why Plato thinks justice is both instrumentally and intrinsically valuable.
  2. You will understand two different reasons for pessimism about our abilities to cultivate virtue.
  3. You will be able to defend your own interpretations of thought experiments like Plato's "Gyges" and situationist experiments like Milgram's "Shock Room"

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Why Be Good? Book II of Plato's Republic


Rethinking One of Psychology's Most Infamous Experiments (The Atlantic)


Do This:

Before class, complete the following reflection questions in your GGL Journal:

  1. Do you think it's true or false that most people would act unjustly if they thought no one would ever figure out?  Give reasons and examples to support your position.
  2. Give an example of something good you've done. How much of the credit do you deserve and how much of it was just due to the situation you found yourself in?

Watch This: