Introduction to Ethics: Moral Problems and the Good Life
About this courseSkip About this course
This course has two goals. The first goal is to introduce you to key questions in ethics.
What makes your life go better or worse for you?
Can ethics be objective?
What are the main historical approaches in ethics?
What do you owe to others?
The second goal is to get you thinking rigorously about ethical questions yourself. This will help you develop your critical reasoning and argumentative skills more generally.
Studying philosophy is valuable in itself, but it’s also excellent preparation for a wide variety of other fields. Philosophy majors do exceptionally well in the GRE, GMAT and LSAT, for example. See here for more details.
This course offers instructor grading. If you choose to pursue a verified certificate, a professional philosopher will carefully read, grade and comment upon your work. We believe that this is the best way to learn philosophy.
Verified learners will be eligible for the MITx Philosophy Award and (for learners in high school) the MITx High School Philosophy Award. The awards will be given by the MIT Philosophy Department for outstanding written work. Award winners will be profiled on the MIT Philosophy Department website. See there for additional information and profiles of winners from previous years.
At a glance
What you'll learnSkip What you'll learn
You will learn how to think about difficult ethical questions in a rigorous and disciplined way.
You will learn about the most important ethical theories, and about how to apply them to real-life cases.
Lecture 1: What is Ethics?
PART 1: WHAT MAKES YOUR LIFE GO BETTER OR WORSE FOR YOU?
Lecture 2: Hedonism — It is about pleasure and pain
Lecture 3: Desire Satisfaction — It is about getting what you want
Lecture 4: Objective Theories — It is about what is worth wanting
Lecture 5: Death — Is death bad for you?
PART 2: CAN ETHICS BE OBJECTIVE?
Lecture 6: Objectivity and God — Ethics without divine command
Lecture 7: Relativism — Ethics across cultures
Lecture 8: Moral Epistemology — Knowing right from wrong
PART 3: THE HISTORY OF ETHICS
Lecture 9: Bentham and Mill — Utilitarianism
Lecture 10: Kant I — Deontology
Lecture 11: Kant II — Deontology
Lecture 12: Aristotle — Virtue ethics
PART 4: HOW YOU RELATE TO OTHERS
Lecture 13: Respecting Rights — The trolley problem
Lecture 14: What You Owe to Needy Strangers
Lecture 15: What You Owe to Future People
Lecture 16: What You Owe to Non-Human Animals