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Online Course

Moral Problems and the Good Life

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX

Overview

This course has two goals. The first goal is to introduce you to key questions in ethics.

  • What makes your life go better or worse for you?

  • Can ethics be objective?

  • What are the main historical approaches in ethics?

  • What do you owe to others?

The second goal is to get you thinking rigorously about ethical questions yourself. This will help you develop your critical reasoning and argumentative skills more generally.

Studying philosophy is valuable in itself, but it’s also excellent preparation for a wide variety of other fields. Philosophy majors do exceptionally well in the GRE, GMAT and LSAT, for example. See here for more details.

This course offers instructor grading. If you choose to pursue a verified certificate, a professional philosopher will carefully read, grade and comment upon your work. We believe that this is the best way to learn philosophy.

Verified learners will be eligible for the MITx Philosophy Award and (for learners in high school) the MITx High School Philosophy Award. The awards will be given by the MIT Philosophy Department for outstanding written work. Award winners will be profiled on the MIT Philosophy Department website. See there for additional information and profiles of winners from previous years.

Syllabus

Lecture 1: What is Ethics?

PART 1: WHAT MAKES YOUR LIFE GO BETTER OR WORSE FOR YOU?

Lecture 2: Hedonism — It is about pleasure and pain

Lecture 3: Desire Satisfaction — It is about getting what you want

Lecture 4: Objective Theories — It is about what is worth wanting

Lecture 5: Death — Is death bad for you?

PART 2: CAN ETHICS BE OBJECTIVE?

Lecture 6: Objectivity and God — Ethics without divine command

Lecture 7: Relativism — Ethics across cultures

Lecture 8: Moral Epistemology — Knowing right from wrong

PART 3: THE HISTORY OF ETHICS

Lecture 9: Bentham and Mill — Utilitarianism

Lecture 10: Kant I — Deontology

Lecture 11: Kant II — Deontology

Lecture 12: Aristotle — Virtue ethics

PART 4: HOW YOU RELATE TO OTHERS

Lecture 13: Respecting Rights — The trolley problem

Lecture 14: What You Owe to Needy Strangers

Lecture 15: What You Owe to Future People

Lecture 16: What You Owe to Non-Human Animals

Taught by

Caspar Hare, Tamar Schapiro, Kieran Setiya, Cosmo Grant and David Balcarras

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