Week 3: Truth, Goodness & Consequences

September 11, 2011by

In these lectures we take an overview of moral philosophy, and look in more detail at consequentialist and deontological moral theories, along with the notion of their being a “greatest good” after which human beings ought to strive to live. Following the lecture you will find two somewhat unorthodox takes on the notions of consequence and law.

Unintended Consequences

Utilitarian moral theory operates on the assumption that one can calculate the outcomes of rules and actions in such a way that human happiness might be maximized. The difficulty of making such calculations accurately is one of the major critiques of the theory. In the following talk, Edward Tenner elaborates on the challenges associated with predicting consequences, and offers some important insight on the benefits of unpredictability.

Living by the Law

AJ Jacobs is described as an author, a philosopher, a prankster, and a journalist. While these are all accurate descriptions of his work, there is something unique about the way in which he does all these things through experimentation. Using his own life as a laboratory, he has designed tests for such ideas as how much information the human mind can take in and retain, how much of one’s life could be outsourced to others,

Nota bene: I do not mean here to advocate any of his views on religion or other matters. This talk serves the purposes of this course as a contemporary illustration of how people think about and are affected by moral laws.