Instructor: Douglas MacLean. This course meets MW 3:35 – 4:50 p.m. in GM 038.
Modern (post-Enlightenment) moral philosophy is primarily concerned with analyzing or defining moral concepts. This includes basic or “thin” concepts like good, bad, right, wrong, and ought; and “thick” concepts that are more cognitively specific, for example: kindness, cruelty, courage, cowardice, empathy, integrity, or selfishness. Thick concepts are often used characterize moral virtues and vices.
Another aim of moral philosophy, which has been less pronounced in the modern era but was the central moral question in ancient Greece and Rome is: what is the proper or ideal life for a human being? Our seminar will focus on this ancient question, but we will draw heavily from modern philosophical works to help illuminate it.
We will begin with the Greeks, especially Socrates, Aristotle, and the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Then we will jump to modern and contemporary philosophy, examining what modern moral theories tell us about the nature of a morally ideal life and how philosophers have criticized these theories. Readings will be drawn primarily from philosophy but will also include some fiction and movies.
The course will be conducted as a seminar, often led by students.