Is there an ethics that we can all agree on without stifling pluralism and freedom? What would such an ethics look like? Most important, how should you, as a thoughtful person, find your way among the moral puzzles of the modern world and its cacophony of voices and opinions? These are just some of the engaging and perplexing questions you'll tackle as you join Professor Kane for this thought-provoking, 24-lecture examination of the problems surrounding ethics in the modern world.
The contemporary issues you'll consider include conflicts between public and private morality, the degree to which the law should enforce morality, the teaching of values in the schools, the role of religion in public life, the limits of liberty and privacy, individualism versus community, and the loss of shared values and the resulting discontent about politics and public discourse. Professor Kane's approach is as searching and comprehensive as any you could ask for. His lectures range over a rich array of literary, religious, and philosophical sources representing thousands of years of civilization. Most intriguingly, they spur you to ponder the possibility of recovering the ancient quest for wisdom and virtue in a way that respects the insights of modern thought and the achievements of modern pluralism. Whatever your thinking on such questions, whatever your own personal question for true meaning, you can rest assured that it will be immeasurably enriched by the harvest of reflection you glean from these compelling lectures.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©1999 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1999 The Great Courses
Engaging, fascinating, fun
Loved the chapter on social contracts - a pretty juicy subject in the hands of Dr. Kane!
This is a must-listen for anyone interested in ethics and morality, or in philosophy in general. Never a dull moment - provides genuine pleasure from start to finish. And it appeals to our values impulses at every level - the sentimental (it feels so good), rational (it makes perfect sense), utilitarian (such useful ideas!), and the contractual (you show up to listen, and Dr. Kane shows up with the goods!). I just wish I'd had Dr. Kane for Philo 101 -- way, way back when I was an undergrad.
The title of this course could have been "The Quest for Objective Values". The professor does an excellent job in the first part of the course of surveying the great philosophers and their positions on relative vs objective values and morals. To each great thinker's position, he offers the opposing view of another great thinker, effectively presenting relativism vs objectivism as an engaging debate that spans all of history.
He then spends the rest of the course defining his own position, which is that yes, there is an objective truth, and that humanity is on the cusp of discovering it. Or at least of discovering how to perceive it, which, in his view, seems to have something to do with recognizing that "aspirational" goals are just as real as achievable goals.
This latter part of the course seems outdated; it is set in a time when we (Americans) had more faith in government, less faith in torture, and more openness to working across party lines and religious divides than we do now. Some of the examples and thought experiments fall flat, given the changes in our culture that have come about since then. I would love to hear an updated version of the same material from the same professor. (His lecturing style, by the way, was excellent.)
The most memorable topic in the lectures, to me, was Plato's view of democracy. If Plato could see us now he would be entirely vindicated.
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