How to Live: What the Great Philosophers Teach us about Ethics
Andy Wimbush PhD AFHEA
Video recordings to watch in your own time
Led by expert tutor Andy Wimbush PhD
Dr Andy Wimbush AFHEA holds a BA and a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he has taught courses on nineteenth-century, twentieth-century, and contemporary literature, close reading, film studies, and moral philosophy. He is the author of Still: Samuel Beckett’s Quietism (ibidem/Columbia University Press, 2020) and his research has been published in Literature and Theology, The Journal of Beckett Studies, and various academic books. He has taught courses for adults in continuing education since 2015.
This series of classes will provide an introduction to moral philosophy, by looking at the ideas of prominent thinkers from antiquity to the present day, including Aristotle, the Buddha, Kant, Nietzsche, and Mill. Students will be encouraged to evaluate the arguments that they encounter and consider whether ethical questions can ever be answered definitely.
What is good? An introduction to moral philosophy
This session will give students an overview of the subject area and some foundations in the key concepts of ethical enquiry.
A life of excellence: Aristotle’s virtue ethics
An explanation of the character-based ethical theory of Aristotle, his understanding of human flourishing, and the role of virtue (excellence).
Suffering and its end: The Buddha’s ethics of universal love and compassion
An overview of the teachings of Siddhartha Gotama, the Indian philosopher better known as the Buddha. A discussion of the place of suffering, its cause, and its end.
Do your duty: Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative
An exploration of the duty-based ethical theory of Immanuel Kant, its foundation in rationality and respect for persons, its influence on human rights.
The greatest happiness for the greatest number: Bentham, Mill, and Utilitarianism
The consequence-based ethical theory of the Utilitarians, their emphasis on happiness and pleasure, Utilitarianism’s demanding moral principles, and the implications for charitable giving today.
A transvaluation of values: Nietzsche’s challenge to European morality
A look at the provocative ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and his challenge to European moral philosophy and its Christian roots.
Does moral truth exist? Is there such a thing as right and wrong?
A discussion of metaethical challenges to the existence of moral truth and whether morality can be grounded in reason, empirical evidence, or something else.
Conclusion: evaluating the theories
A final discussion of the course’s topics, a recap of key arguments, and a chance for students to decide which theory – if any – they find most convincing.
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