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Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

PHIL 388: History of Ethics

PHIL 388: History of Ethics

The Generic Catalog Description

This course examines the major figures in the histsory of western philosophy, such as Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and Nietzsche.


PHIL 388: History of Ethics

Thomas Carson

Aristotle, Kant, and Mill are among the most important figures in the history of ethics. The views and traditions they represent are very much alive. We will read large parts of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and all of Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, and Mill's Utilitarianism. In order to facilitate critical reflection on these texts and the views they defend, we will read selections from contemporary philosophers who attempt to develop the Aristotelian, Kantian, and Utilitarian traditions. The three main issues to be considered in the course are theories of value and the good life, theories of right and wrong (moral obligation), and questions about the objectivity and justification of moral judgements. The discussion of value theory will focus on Aristotelian/functionalist theories of value and the hedonistic theory of value.Our discussion of right and wrong will focus on Kant, and Mill, with special attention to the morality of lying.

Many of readings for the course address questions about the justification of moral judgments. The class will also explore the differences between ancient and modern ethics in the western philosophical tradition. Many philosophers claim that there are profound differences between ancient and modern ethical theories. Elizabeth Anscombe holds that the concepts of right and wrong and moral obligation are derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition. She claims that Aristotle's ethical theory does not include the notion of moral obligation. Other commentators claim that Nietzsche rejects "modern" ethical notions and defends views similar to Aristotle's.

Typical Readings:
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Ostwald translation).
Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and On a Supposed Right to Lie because of Philanthropic Concerns.
Mill, Utilitarianism
Carson and Moser, eds., Morality and the Good Life.




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