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Moral Problems and the Good Life

A rigorous introduction to ethics. We’ll think about well-being, objectivity, key historical figures and approaches, what we owe to others, and more.

Moral Problems and the Good Life
start date
10 weeks
5-7 hours per week

About this course

This course has two goals. The first goal is to introduce you to key questions in ethics.

  • What makes your life go better or worse for you?
  • Can ethics be objective?
  • What are the main historical approaches in ethics?
  • What do you owe to others?

The second goal is to get you thinking rigorously about ethical questions yourself. This will help you develop your critical reasoning and argumentative skills more generally.

Studying philosophy is valuable in itself, but it’s also excellent preparation for a wide variety of other fields. Philosophy majors do exceptionally well in the GRE, GMAT and LSAT, for example. See here for more details.

This course offers instructor grading. If you choose to pursue a verified certificate, a professional philosopher will carefully read, grade and comment upon your work. We believe that this is the best way to learn philosophy.

Verified learners will be eligible for the MITx Philosophy Award and (for learners in high school) the MITx High School Philosophy Award. The awards will be given by the MIT Philosophy Department for outstanding written work. Award winners will be profiled on the MIT Philosophy Department website. See there for additional information and profiles of winners from previous years.

What you’ll learn

You will learn how to think about difficult ethical questions in a rigorous and disciplined way.

You will learn about the most important ethical theories, and about how to apply them to real-life cases.

Meet your instructors

  • Caspar Hare

    Professor of Philosophy, MIT

    Caspar Hare has taught philosophy at MIT for ten years. He has written numerous articles on ethics, metaphysics and practical rationality, and two books. On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects (Princeton University Press 2009) is about the metaphysics of perspective. The Limits of Kindness (Oxford University Press 2013) is about normative ethics. He loves philosophy and hopes that you will too.

  • Tamar Schapiro

    Associate Professor of Philosophy, MIT

    Tamar Schapiro moved to MIT after teaching at Stanford from 2000-2015. She is interested in ethical theory, the history of ethics (especially Kant and the British Moralists), practical reasoning and human agency. Her most recent project is a book manuscript entitled, Feeling Like It: A Theory of Inclination and Will.

  • Kieran Setiya

    Professor of Philosophy, MIT

    Kieran Setiya works mainly in ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind. He is the author of Practical Knowledge, Reasons without Rationalism, and Knowing Right From Wrong, which defend a form of cognitivism about intention, a virtue theory of practical reason, and an account of ethical knowledge that draws on Aristotle and Hume. He has also written about love, regret, and rights. Most recently, he is the author of a self-help book, Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, and a number of essays in public philosophy.

  • David Balcarras

    David Balcarras is a Lecturer in philosophy and a Digital Learning Lab Fellow at MIT. He got his PhD in philosophy from MIT, and his MA and BA in philosophy from the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the philosophy of mind and language.

Who can take this course?

Because of U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) restrictions and other U.S. federal regulations, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba, Syria, North Korea and the Crimea, Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic regions of Ukraine.