Don't Obsess Over Morality

Wed, Feb 12

Plato gave us reasons to think that a total commitment to morality (in the virtue ethics sense) just is what it is to have a good life.  Is that right?  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:

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

Read This:


"Moral Saints" (Susan Wolf) (You may skip pp. 427-33 [resume at "If the above..."]. Everything after p. 435 is also optional.)


"Jean Vanier, Savior of People on the Margins, Does at 90." (NY Times)

Do This:

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

  1. Write down at least one argument Wolf gives for the conclusion that the fully moral life isn't likely to be the good life.
  2. How might Susan Wolf write Jean Vanier's obituary differently?
  3. Describe the life of at least one of your role models. How concerned is that person with morality?


Watch This: