Give Away Money

Mon, 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.  

By the end of class today, you will:

  1. Understand the consequentialist logic behind hedonic utilitarianism.
  2. Evaluate whether utilitarians are right that personal details tend to bias our thinking about moral decisions
  3. Articulate the extent to which utilitarian principles support your view of the moral life.
  4. Reflect and connect on the role money (earning it, giving it) plays in developing our moral capacities.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Utilitarianism (Book II) (John Stuart Mill)


Join Wall Street, Save the World (Washington Post)


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):
    • Pretend you are the manager of the firm where Jason Trigg (from the Washington Post article) is interviewing for a job.  What do you make of his plan to earn as much as possible and give the money to highly efficient charities?  What are morally admirable features of his decision?  What might give you pause?
    • How would John Stuart Mill respond to the objection that focusing on earning more to give more will prevent you from developing your talents? Try to find a passage from the reading that supports your answer.
  • Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check [now closed].​​​​​​

Watch This: