What does it mean to live a good life? If we want to live ethically, it stands to reason that our daily habits and overall goals must align themselves with a certain moral code. Is it ethical to pursue money, property, and social status? Do we have a moral obligation to give to charity, take care of our aging parents, or shop locally? Where is the line between personal freedom and societal good?
These questions and more are at the heart of what it means to be a human being in our world today. We are constantly faced with ethical challenges, whether or not we’re aware of them. As such, we make important ethical decisions all the time—as professionals, consumers, citizens, parents, sons and daughters, and friends. Yet as we go through our daily lives, we seldom take the time to consider the wide-ranging implications of our actions. What’s more, many of us have never had any formal training in ethics, which means we may not have the right philosophical framework to think through some of our most complex decisions.
Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics offers you the chance to reflect on some of the most powerful moral issues we face—as well as providing a framework for making the best decisions that will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life. Over the course of 24 thought-provoking lectures, Professor Clancy Martin of the University of Missouri–Kansas City introduces us to a variety of ethical “case studies”—the kind of difficult situations we have all faced at some point—and he shows us how great thinkers, from Socrates to Nietzsche to Bonhoeffer, approached similar problems.
Are profits and property the highest moral ends? When is it OK to lie? How should we handle heartbreak? There are no easy answers, but with an engaging blend of philosophical history and theory as well as real-world applications, Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics provides an ideal framework for living the good life—for ourselves, for our family and friends, and for society at large.
Ancient Roots, Contemporary Applications
Philosophers have been wrestling with morality for at least 5,000 years, and Professor Martin clearly disseminates the wisdom of the world’s great thinkers from across the ages and around the world. In this course, you will
- apply Aristotle’s range of thought to questions of individualism, social status, and generosity;
- learn what Kant’s “categorical imperative” means for personal relationships and the contract of marriage;
- see how Locke’s theory of property paved the way for a revolutionary new system of government;
- contrast John Rawls’s and Robert Nozick’s theories of liberty and social justice;
- find out why Andrew Carnegie said it was immoral to give money to panhandlers;
- study the teachings of Eastern thinkers, including Confucius, Xunzi, Mencius, and the Buddha;
- consider what a utilitarian calculus implies about genetic enhancements and torture.
In addition to examining the views of historically great philosophers, Professor Martin draws from 20th-and 21st-century thinkers from other fields, including economics, theology, business, psychology, and evolutionary biology. You’ll meet such figures as these:
- John Maynard Keynes
- Friedrich Hayek
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Lawrence Kohlberg
- Carol Gilligan
- Kenneth Arrow
- Peter Singer
- Martha Nussbaum
By introducing such a diverse array of thinkers, Professor Martin provides a complete picture of various ethical schools and approaches. But the real beauty of this course is in the way he applies this rich philosophical overview to our contemporary lives.
To take one example, Professor Martin notes in a discussion on gossip that “almost every conversation is a moral act.” Every time we have a discussion with someone, we are choosing, consciously or otherwise, whether to lie, or to gossip, or simply to engage in idle chatter when we could be doing some other, more enriching task.
With the right philosophical background, we can learn to recognize these moments, which will lead us closer to living the “good” life.
Keep an Open Mind in Everyday Dilemmas
According to Professor Martin, the trick is to understand that the mind is like a parachute; it only works when it’s open. Rather than take a side in any particular debate, this course provides a framework for thinking through a host of debates and dilemmas from all sides. You’ll explore all the ins and outs of issues such as these:
- Business ethics
- Love and marriage
- Genetic engineering
- Capital punishment
- Animal rights
The rapid advances in technology, from the medical world to social media, have created new ethical situations to navigate. Where is the line between privacy and security in a state where snooping is so easy? What obligations do we owe our aging parents, who might be reliant on our help? Do people have the right to die a “good death”? If so, what is the best way to make that happen? What are the ethical guidelines for genetic engineering?
These challenges are part of our modern world, and simply by living in our society, we all will confront some of these questions. It might seem that historical thinkers like Plato, Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill would have little to say about such contemporary dilemmas, but Professor Martin extrapolates from their ideas and shows how old methods can be used to solve new problems.
Rich Storytelling Brings These Case Studies to Life
Professor Martin’s approach in this course is to present an ethical question—for instance, is it acceptable for a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription for the morning-after pill on conscientious objection grounds?—and then to step back and interrogate the issue, bringing in ideas from different philosophers to highlight arguments on all sides of the debate.
Engaging stories and thought experiments put you in the shoes of someone facing a real-life dilemma, showing how different theories play such an important role on the stage of our everyday lives. The philosophers he references may have been speaking abstractly about liberty, property, conscience, and more, but the narratives in this course make complex philosophy easy to understand.
Professor Martin is a wonderful storyteller, and he himself has had a colorful and exciting life, particularly in business. He recounts stories of his travels and business ventures, making himself both a character in the thought experiment and a sympathetic guide. Without judgment, he helps you open the parachute of your mind and shows you how to navigate the age-old question of how you should live.