The course: When we strive to live as ethical individuals, or struggle to promote a more ethical society, upon what foundation do we secure our principles? Do we primarily use reason to deduce them from some deeper, more fundamental set of philosophical principles, themselves similarly deduced? Or do we primarily inherit our ethical principles from theological tradition as revealed truths rather than reasoned truths? If the answer is both, then where and how do these methods intersect? Can ‘revealed’ ethical principles be analyzed rationally? Do ‘reasoned’ philosophical principles involve faith-based presuppositions (e.g., belief that the universe is truly a ‘reasonable’ and ‘objectively real’ place)?
In this course we will examine these and related questions by surveying the works of several major thinkers in philosophical ethics, from the Classical and Hellenistic periods through the 20th Century. Along the way, we’ll apply our analyses to several present-day ethical controversies which we will examine within the context of our readings.