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

    Everyone, whether they realize it or not, has some beliefs about the differences between right and wrong, or 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, however, situations arise that force us to call our moral beliefs into question and to debate the truth about moral behavior with our peers. It is usually the really difficult cases, in which the right thing to do is difficult to decide, and cases which divide people against one another in their opinions, that bring the differences in our moral intuitions into focus and force us to clarify our moral principles.

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

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 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