Find Your Saint

Mon, Sep 07

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:


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


A Church Service Inspired by Beyonce (No Halos Required) (NY Times)

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):
    • Choose someone from the past whom you consider a "moral saint". Find an obituary for the person and read it.  What would Plato or Mill emphasize about their life?  What would Susan Wolf emphasize differently?
    • What role does Beyonce play in helping participants in Beyonce Mass form a vision of Eudiamonia?  What would a virtue ethicist like Aristotle think about the value of Beyonce Mass?
    • What role should heroes play in your own pursuit of the good life?  
  • Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check.


Watch This: