• Unit 1: Murder, Morality, and the Value of Human Life

    Everyone has some ideas about the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. We use these beliefs to guide our behavior, judge the behavior of others, and decide on laws and punishments in our society. Sometimes situations arise that force us to call our moral beliefs into question and debate the truth about moral behavior with our peers. It is usually the difficult cases, where people are divided about the right course of action, that bring the differences in our moral intuitions into focus and force us to clarify our moral principles.

    In this unit, we investigate some notoriously difficult and divisive moral dilemmas involving justice, rights, and the value of human life. We explore the moral theory of utilitarianism in depth and consider whether it can help us determine the right thing to do and how to produce a just society. Finally, we introduce two ethical theories that contrast with utilitarianism: deontology and natural law.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

    • 1.1: Metaethics, Normative Ethics, and Applied Ethics

    • 1.2: Investigating Our Moral Intuitions

    • 1.3: From Moral Intuitions to Moral Principles and Back Again

    • 1.4: Consequentialist Ethics and Bentham's Utilitarianism

    • 1.5: Pitfalls of Consequentialist Ethics and Mill's Utilitarianism

    • 1.6: Alternatives to Consequentialist Ethics

    • Unit 1 Assessment