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PHIL101: Introduction to Philosophy

Unit 4: Ethics and Moral Philosophy   Similarly to political philosophy, ethics also deals with questions of how things ought to be rather than how they are. Ethics tends to treat these questions at the level of the individual human being rather than at the level of the community or the state. At various points in the history of ethical theory, the value of ethical actions and the measure we can use to determine if an action is good or bad have been located in different parts of the action. Is it in the virtue, character, or moral development of the person doing the action (this view is associated with Aristotle and ancient Greece)? Is it located in the intentions or the motivations that inspire the action in the first place (this view would be associated with the early Modern period and Immanuel Kant’s ethics)? Or, is the value of the action based in the results or the consequences that the action brings about in the end (this would be the view of modern utilitarian philosophers like John Stuart Mill)? Specific ethical questions come in many forms and varieties: Is it always wrong to commit murder? What about if it would save the lives of others or if it would end someone’s suffering? Do people still have basic rights even if they do something despicable? Are close family members entitled to better treatment than strangers off of the street? Philosophers have tended to answer ethical questions by creating general theories of how to live and of what actions are right and wrong. In this unit, we will investigate the three most influential ethical theories - namely, those of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill. Each of these theorists identifies a different basis for the ethical life. Ethics is grounded in either virtue (Aristotle), duty (Kant), or the consequences of our actions (Mill). The tricky part is figuring out which of these views is the right one, because they each seem to resonate with different aspects of our moral sensibilities.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 24.25 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 8.75 hours ☐    Subunit 4.2.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2.3: 0.75 hour

☐    Subunit 4.2.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.3: 5.5 hours ☐    Subunit 4.3.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3.3: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 4.4: 4 hours ☐    Subunit 4.4.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 4.4.2: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.4.3: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 3.4.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.5: 2.25 hours

☐    Assessment #6: 2 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Explain how Aristotle comes to definitions of virtue and “the good” as well as a definition for human happiness, and describe how these definitions are based on certain assumptions concerning human nature. - ExplainKant’s categorical imperative as a moral principle by applying the categorical imperative to hypothetical situations. - Compare and contrast Aristotelian, utilitarian, and Kantian notions of ethics by exploring virtue, duty, and the rational consequences of action.

4.1 Plato and the Ideal State   4.1.1 Outline of Plato’s Political Philosophy   - Reading: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. W. J. Korab-Karpowicz: “Plato’s Political Philosophy” Link: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. W. J. Korab-Karpowicz: “Plato’s Political Philosophy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this webpage about Plato’s political philosophy. One of the remarkable features of Plato’s philosophy is the degree to which all its components are integrated. This reading demonstrates how his views on how an ideal state ought to be governed follow directly from his views on the nature of reality.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.2 Understanding Plato’s Theory of Philosopher Kings   - Reading: CliffsNotes: The Republic by Plato - Summary and Analysis: “Book VI” and “Book VII” Links: CliffsNotes: The Republic by Plato - Summary and Analysis: “Book VI” (HTML) and “Book VII” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read these webpages. Click the “Next Page” link to read the summary and analysis modules for all sections of Books VI and VII of The Republic. After reading these modules, you should be able to explain why Plato believes philosophers should govern the state. Notice that Plato’s arguments implicitly criticize the prevailing form of government in fifth century Athens: democracy. 
 
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4.2 Aristotle and Virtue Ethics   4.2.1 Outline of Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Christopher Shields’ “Aristotle’s Life” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Christopher Shields’ “Aristotle’s Life” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the first three sections of this entry: “Aristotle’s Life,” “The Aristotelian Corpus: Character and Primary Divisions,” and “Phainomena and the Endoxic Method.” This will provide historical and biographical context for Aristotle’s philosophy and relates him to his intellectual predecessor: Plato.
 
Studying this reading should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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  • Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Richard Kraut’s “Aristotle’s Ethics” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Richard Kraut’s “Aristotle’s Ethics” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read sections 1 - 5. Take note of how Dr. Kraut defines the terms “human good,” “eudaimonia,” and “doctrine of the mean.” This reading provides historical context for Aristotle’s ethics and introduces the key terminology necessary for understanding it.
     
    Studying this reading should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.2 Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics   - Reading: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: “Book I” and “Book II” Links: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: “Book I” (PDF) and “Book II” (PDF)
 
Also available in:
HTML (Book 1)
HTML (Book 2)
 
Instructions: Read the two readings. The Nicomachean Ethics is based on a set of lectures Aristotle gave around 350 B.C. Book I argues that “the good” for human beings is happiness and that happiness is achieved by acting in accordance with virtue. Book II explains how virtue is achieved through habit and by avoiding extremes in thought and action.
 
Studying these readings should take approximately 5 hours.
 
Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

4.2.3 Understanding Aristotle's Virtue Ethics   - Lecture: iTunes U: Dr. Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Classics: “Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics” Link: iTunes U: Dr. Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Classics: “Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above and select “View in iTunes” for the lecture titled “Aristotle - Nicomachean Ethics.” Dr. Warburton explains how Aristotle’s answer to the question “How should one live one’s life?” follows from his view that the human good is happiness - living in accordance with virtue. Notice that all of Aristotle’s virtues refer to the self and not to other people. This will be important when we compare his theory to those of Kant and Mill.
 
Watchign this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
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4.2.4 Some Objections to Virtue Ethics   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Rosalind Hursthouse’s “Virtue Ethics” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Rosalind Hursthouse’s “Virtue Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this webpage about virtue ethics. Dr. Hursthouse presents Aristotelian ethics as a popular option for contemporary ethical theory and takes a critical stance toward several of its features.
 
Studying this reading should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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4.3 Immanuel Kant and Duty-Based Ethics   4.3.1 Outline of Kant’s Duty-Based Ethics   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Robert Johnson’s “Kant’s Moral Philosophy” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Robert Johnson’s “Kant’s Moral Philosophy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above and read sections 1 - 6 about Kant’s ethics. This reading introduces Kant’s ethics by detailing its relation to his metaphysics. For Kant, one’s moral obligations result from a “categorical imperative” inherent in one’s rationality.
 
Studying this reading should take approximately 2 hours.
 
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4.3.2 Kant's Categorical Imperative   - Reading: Immanuel Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals: “Second Section: Transition from Popular Moral Philosophy to the Metaphysic of Morals” Link: Immanuel Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals: “Second Section: Transition from Popular Moral Philosophy to the Metaphysic of Morals” (PDF)
 
Also available in:

[HTML](http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kant/immanuel/k16prm/chapter2.html)  

 Instructions: Read this section. Reading Kant is very tough going.
You will want to look out for two things in particular: his
distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives and his
formulations of the categorical imperative. Kant’s approach to
ethics is fundamentally different from Aristotle’s approach. While
Aristotle seeks to answer the question “How should one live one’s
life?” Kant is more concerned with the question “What is the right
thing to do?”  
    
 Studying this text should take approximately 3 hours.  
    
 Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

4.3.3 Understanding Kant’s Duty-Based Ethics   - Lecture: iTunes U: Dr. Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Classics: “Kant - Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals” Link: iTunes U: Dr. Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Classics: “Kant - Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above and select “View in iTunes” for the lecture titled “Kant - Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals.” Listen to the lecture about Kant’s ethics. Dr. Warburton provides a number of examples of duty-based ethics in practice, explaining how, for Kant, particular actions are justified by the principles behind them.
 
Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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4.4 John Stuart Mill and Utilitarian Ethics   4.4.1 Outline of Mill’s Utilitarian Ethics   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Fred Wilson’s “John Stuart Mill” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Fred Wilson’s “John Stuart Mill” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Section 1 for a brief account of Mill’s life and his commitment to social reform. Then read Section 12 for an outline of his utilitarian ethics. 
 
Studying this reading should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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4.4.2 Mill’s Utilitarian Ethics   - Reading: John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism: “Chapter II: What Utilitarianism Is” Link: John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism: “Chapter II: What Utilitarianism Is” (PDF)
 

 Instructions: Read this chapter from Mill’s major ethical work.
This selection from Mill’s treatise *Utilitarianism* presents the
fundamentals of his ethical theory. Like Kant, Mill wants to answer
this basic question: “What is the right thing to do?” However, in
stark contrast to Kant, Mill asserts that it is the consequences of
our actions that ultimately determine whether our actions are right
or wrong, not the intentions or principles behind them. For this
reason, views such as Mill’s theory are also referred to as a
version of “consequentialism.”  
    
 Studying this reading should take approximately 2 hours.  
    
 Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

4.4.3 Understanding Mill’s Utilitarian Ethics   - Lecture: iTunes U: Dr. Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Classics: “Mill - Utilitarianism” Link: iTunes U: Dr. Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Classics: “Mill - Utilitarianism” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above and select “View in iTunes” for the lecture titled “Mill - Utilitarianism.”
 
Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.4.4 Comparing Ethical Theories   - Lecture: Yale University: Dr. Tamar Szabó Gendler’s Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature: “Utilitarianism and Its Critiques” Link: Yale University: Dr. Tamar Szabó Gendler’s Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature: “Utilitarianism and Its Critiques” (Adobe Flash) (QuickTime) (MP3)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above and watch this lecture. It gives a background for the three major ethical theories (Aristotle, Kant, and Mill) and then compares Mill’s ethical theory to those of Kant and Aristotle. The lecture addresses the overall purpose of ethical theory and covers the major distinctions between the classic Western approaches to ethics. In comparing Kant and Mill, one major difference is whether our actions should be guided by principles (Kant) or by the consequences we expect them to have (Mill), while Aristotle emphasized that ethics is really not about action at all but rather about cultivating a virtuous character.
 
Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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4.5 Applied Philosophical Ethics in Today’s Society   4.5.1 Applied Ethics and Democratic Justice   - Lecture: Yale University: Dr. Ian Shapiro’s “Democratic Justice: Applications” Link: Yale University: Dr. Ian Shapiro’s “Democratic Justice: Applications” (Adobe Flash) (QuickTime) (MP3)
 
Also available in:

[PDF](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/PHIL101-4.5.1.pdf)  
    
 Instructions: Click on the link above and then listen to this
lecture. Dr. Shapiro examines the nexus of philosophical ideas about
power and hierarchies and today’s democratic society. Notions of
parent/child and employer/employee relationships, among other basic
social hierarchies, are explored.  
    
 Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1
hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.5.2 Applied Ethics Today: Life and Death, Moral Status, and Designer Babies   - Lecture: Oxford Centre for Neuroethics: University of Oxford: Peter Singer’s “Life and Death,” Jeff McMahan’s “Moral Status,” and Julian Savulescu’s “Designer Babies” Links: Oxford Centre for Neuroethics: University of Oxford: Peter Singer’s “Life and Death” (iTunes U), Jeff McMahan’s “Moral Status” (iTunes U), and Julian Savulescu’s “Designer Babies” (iTunes U)
 
Instructions: Click on the links above to locate the lecture titles, select “View in iTunes” for each title to launch the lecture in iTunes. Listen to each lecture. The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics has sponsored this podcast series by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton. It will ultimately include 10 interviews with leading influential thinkers on bioethics and is titled “Bio-Ethics Bites.”  The series consists of philosophical perspectives that engage today’s ethical dilemmas that arise out of scientific advances.
 
Listening to these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
 
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  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Assessment #6” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Assessment #6” (PDF)

    Instructions: Click on the link above and follow the instructions to complete the assessment. This assessment will test your comprehension of the principles behind each of the three major ethical theories. You should also be able to identify which one would be best applied in a given example case. Check your responses against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Key”.
     
    Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.