The Personalist Project

Class details

Personalist Ethics

Jules van Schaijik

Fall 2008

Where

519 N. High St., West Chester, PA

When

Fridays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

9/15
The Call and Challenge of Goodness
9/29
The Good as the Source of Happiness
10/13
What is Virtue?
10/27
The Relation between Virtue and Action
11/10
The Role of Duty in the Moral Life
11/24
The Subjective Intention and the Objective Nature of a Moral Act
12/8
A Personalist Critique of Utilitarianism
12/22
Conscience & Truth, Freedom & Law, Persons & Absolutes

Description

In this course we discuss fundamental ethical norms and principles, paying particular attention to the interplay between these and the dignity of persons. We hope to show how the demands of morality are profoundly conducive to the happiness and flourishing of persons, both as individuals and in communion with one another.

More about the class

The dignity of human persons is closely bound up with the fact that we are moral beings faced with and challenged by the call to be good and live well. We thrive as persons only if we respond positively to this call. In today's culture, however, many question or even deny this link. They perceive rather a conflict between traditional morality and the freedom and dignity of the human person.

In this course we will discuss fundamental ethical norms and principles, paying particular attention to the interplay between these and the dignity of persons. We hope to show how the demands of morality are profoundly conducive to the happiness and flourishing of persons, both as individuals and in communion with one another.

We will reflect on basic ethical questions such as: What is moral goodness? How does it arise? How is it related to freedom? What is virtue, and how does it differ from vice? What makes an act right or wrong? Are there any moral absolutes? But we will also address, for instance, the tension that exists between individual freedom and objective laws and values, and how that tension can best be resolved. We will look at ways of preserving the freedom of conscience in the face of moral absolutes. We will examine how a belief in objective truth can coexist with tolerance.

The course is roughly divided into three parts. The first two sessions will deal with the nature of the good and human motivation. The next three will focus on the moral being or character of the person, and the last three at moral acts and the norms that govern them.

Note that this is a general ethics course, focusing on the most fundamental ethical norms and principles. Specific ethical issues (such as abortion, stem cell research, the morality of war, etc.) will surely come up by way of example, but they will not be the focus.

Tentative list of reading material*

  • Plato, Gorgias
  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism
  • Selections from Plato's, Republic
  • Selections from Aristotle's, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Selections from Kant's, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • Selections from St. Thomas' Summa Theologica
  • Selections from Peter Singer's Practical Ethics
  • Selections from Dietrich von Hildebrand's Ethics (out of print)