The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: Ethics and Moral Philosophy

Instructor: Michael Stevenson
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Why should we be good? What makes an action moral—and how can we know? If an act is moral here and now, is it necessarily moral there and then? Is goodness in some way connected to happiness? And, what constitutes a moral judgment—is it an exercise of reason, or merely an expression of feeling?

In this class, we’ll investigate the nature and scope of morality as it’s been conceived in the western philosophical tradition. We’ll look at four major traditions in moral philosophy, reading both their historical and contemporary advocates: virtue ethics, moral sentimentalism, consequentialism, and deontology. We’ll see what each has to say about questions of normative ethics—that is, how we ought to act. And, we’ll inquire into “meta-ethical” ideas about the grounds and nature of morality itself. Is morality “objective” or merely “relative”? Is morality a feature of nature; or is its existence, in some sense, non-real or ideal? Readings will include works by both classic thinkers, such as Aristotle, David Hume, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant, and contemporary moral philosophers, such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Christine Korsgaard.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
January 27 — February 17, 2020
4 weeks


Registration Open