This course is intended to be a general introduction to the main topics and the most significant developments in 20th-century broadly analytic, Anglophone ethics. Unlike most of the other courses offered by the International Catholic University, this course does not specifically focus on issues central to Catholic discussions, although many of the figures discussed in these lectures, notably Elizabeth Anscombe and Alasdair MacIntyre, are among the most important Catholic philosophers in the twentieth century. In focusing on analytic, Anglophone ethics, we have deliberately chosen to ignore other important traditions in 20th century ethics, in particular, Thomism, Marxism, pragmatism and various strands of continental thought. In some cases, say Thomism, we have largely ignored them because they are covered separately and in depth in other courses offered by the International Catholic University. In other cases, we were forced by the exigencies of space to touch upon them at most lightly. There are powerful positive reasons, however, derived from reflection on the cultural role of ethics in the 20th century to focus, as we have, on analytic, Anglophone ethics. It has been this particular tradition that had dominated moral philosophy in the universities of the United States and the United Kingdom for most of this century. There is also a clear point of origination of this tradition in G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica, published in 1903, and a clear line of development within this tradition from that originating point to the present day. In certain respects, also, it has seemed to many that this tradition was beginning to lose some of its unity and energy with certain developments in the last decade of the 20th century. If we should be seeing the decline of this tradition at this time, it may turn out that the whole history of the tradition, in its purest form, will be encompassed in the 20th century. Of course, we must wait to see what the future holds both for ethical consciousness as well as for the academic study of ethics, before we can predict with confidence the demise of this tradition.
This course is presented in twelve video lectures available from the International Catholic University. We have also included here additional materials to enhance the course:
1. Readings keyed to each of the lectures. For those taking this course for credit within the International Catholic University, required readings are listed here. Additional readings are also suggested for those who want to pursue particular matters at greater length. There are two books required for those taking the course for credit. Twentieth Century Ethics, an anthology of articles on the matters under discussion in this course, and After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre's masterful 1982 contribution to this tradition.
2. Study questions on the material in the course. A number of questions are keyed to each of the lectures. These questions are intended to provoke further thought on the part of readers, and they may also be used as essay questions for those taking the course for credit.