Ethics for Beginners

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Ethics for Beginners

52 "Big Ideas" from 32 Great Minds

Kreeft, Peter


1. One anonymous sage: the Rta/Tao/Logos, Four Sages from the East

2. The Hindu Tradition: The Four Wants of Man

3. Buddha: Nirvana

4. Lao Tzu: Nature’s Way

5. Confucius: Social Harmony Three Sages from the West

6. Moses: Divine Law

7. Jesus: Agape Love

8. Muhammad: “Islam” Three Classic Greek Founders of Philosophy

9. Socrates: the Primacy of Wisdom (“Virtue is Knowledge”)

10. Plato: a, No double standard: ethics and politics; b. Platonic ideas: the objective reality of goodness; c. Justice as health of soul and therefore always profitable

11. Aristotle: a.Happiness as the end, the greatest good; b. Virtue as the road to happiness; c. The good as teleological; d. The golden mean as the key to virtue; e. Ethics as dependent on metaphysics; f. The (later) idea of “natural law”

Three Lesser but More Popular Ancient Philosophers

12. Protagoras

13. Epicurus: Hedonism

14. Epicurus: Stoicism Three Medieval Christian Saints

15. St. Augustine: a. Love as gravity; b. Only two kinds of people; c. The restless heart

16. St. Anselm: The Good greater than which nothing can be thought

17. Thomas Aquinas: a. The role of faith and reason; b. Four kinds of law; c. The four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues; d. Eight candidates for happiness

Three Modern Political Philosophers

18. Machiavelli: the good as the practical

19. Hobbes: the good as power

20. Rousseau: the good as feeling

Three Classic Modern Ethical Alternatives

21. Hume: the good as subjective

22. Kant: a. The good as goodwill; b. Goodwill as duty; c. Duty as the “categorical imperative”

23. Mill: Utilitarianism: the good as maximally happy consequences

Three Existentialists

24. Kierkegaard: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Religion

25. Nietzsche: a. The genealogy of morals as resentment; b. The Superman: “beyond good

and evil”, c. “The will to power”

26. Sartre: a. God vs. freedom; b. Love vs freedom

Two Personalists

27. Marcel: a. Being as value; b. Mysteries vs. problems; c. “Creative fidelity”

28. Von Hildebrand: a. Three kinds of value; b. The ethics of the heart

Three Analytic Philosophers

29. Ayer: the good as meaningless

30. Moore: the good as indefinable

31. Wittgenstein: the good as “mystical”

32. Is ethics dead? MacIntyre “After Virtue” vs. Aquinas


Appendix I: Suggestions for questions for original essays or debates

Appendix II: Ten methods from the philosophers for writing original essays