Don't Obsess About Morality

Wed, Feb 09

The utilitarian philosophers offer a powerful argument that the morally good life requires significant sacrifices (time, money, organs?) In this class we will debate whether to live the good life you shouldn't strive to be as moral as possible.  Can a moral saint also be a good friend?  Does being a good person mean you cannot also be funny, or a good cook, or just generally weird and interesting?  Can being morally good be different from being just all-around good?  We'll debate whether there are goals more important than morality and also think more seriously about the kinds of lives we honestly admire.

By the end of lecture today, you will:

  1. Understand the distinction between moral value and other types of value, applying Susan Wolf's theory.
  2. Devise a method for weighing moral value against competing values and relate it to the view of the good life you've been developing.
  3. Construct an argument for or against the conclusion that the moral life is very demanding.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Susan Wolf - "Moral Saints" (Access on Perusall -- This assignment is required, but it's marked as "Optional" on Perusall so that the score isn't factored into your grade. You don't need to annotate it. You should read it and complete the quiz on Canvas, just like you do with our other primary texts (which are usually hosted on the GGL website)).

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

Cheeseburger Ethics (Aeon)

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):
    • Describe the life of at least one of your role models. How concerned is that person with morality?
    • How do you think our ancestors will look back on us? How will our generation or culture rank against the various other cultures throughout history?

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


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