Cultivate Your Character

Feb 1

Pick your Professor

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 avoid the social problems that would come with people thinking we’re immoral? Or is there something intrinsically valuable about being a good person? Plato will be our guide on this, as we read more selections from The Republic. We’ll also wrestle with an important skeptical question — does modern psychology show you do not have a stable character?

We have three main learning goals for this day. You will:

  1. Understand why Plato thinks justice is both instrumentally and intrinsically valuable
  2. Understand two different reasons for pessimism about our abilities to cultivate virtue.
  3. Be able to defend your own interpretations of thought experiments like Plato’s “Gyges” and situationist experiments like Milgram’s “Shock Room”.

Read This:

PrimaryInteractive Essay: Why Be Good? Book II of Plato’s Republic

SecondaryHow Moral Are We, Really?

Do This:


  • Make sure you’ve completed the “How We Argue” (ThinkerAnalytix) course up through lessons 4-5 by today’s class.
  • After you’ve finished today’s reading, make sure you complete the reading quiz, which you can access through your section’s Canvas page.

Suggested: Consider and discuss with a friend — do you think most people would do bad things if they knew they could get away with it? Do you think most people are “naturally good”?

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