Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Here’s an interesting thought experiment from TPM. It’s essentially a variation on Philipa Foot’s well-known ‘trolley experiment’. Give it a go and see how consistent your morals are… Should you kill the fat man? Advertisements

Prof. Emily Jackson of the London School of Economics offers a perspective on euthanasia legislation in the UK.

Hello All Many thanks to everyone who contributed to today’s class – I thinnk Tooley’s paper is a provocative piece and so makes for a good discussion.  Those of you who gave Tooly a rough ride in class had some interesting ideas that are well worth pursuing…you might be on to something… Next week is a reading […]

UK teenager Hannah Jones has been receiving intensive medical treatment since the age of 4, when she was diagnosed with lukemia.  After six operations in the last two years, her heart still only works at 10% of normal capacity. She had now taken the decision to end her treatment, which she recently went to court […]

While traditional moral arguments about euthanasia tend to focus on cases where the condition of the individual is terminal, the recent case of a 23 year old British man commiting suicide in a Swiss euthanasia clinic, after being left paralysed from the neck down from a sporting injury, raises a number of moral and legal questions. Is there […]

British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock has weighed into the current debate on euthanasia inspired by the death of Daniel James with this piece at Guardian Unlimited.  She argues that we must respect the autonomous wishes of others and not place our judgements of the value of another’s life above their own.  The article has provoked […]

Bertrand Russell was one of the most well-known of British philosophers of the 20th century.  Here’s what he had to say about Nietzsche in his History of Western Philosophy.

 You might be interested in this BBC documentary about Nietzsche…  You can see striking footage of Nietzsche on his death-bed on my other website at 

May I be forgiven the discovery that all moral philosophy hitherto has been boring – and that ‘virtue’ has in my eyes been harmed by nothing more than…by this boringness of its advocates; in saying which, however I should not want to overlook their general utility. It is important that as few people as possible […]

A word now against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defense. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the […]

The ‘eternal return’ is supposed to regulate how ‘life affirming’ or ‘life-denying’ an action or morality is. This is the classic formulation that Nietzsche offers: “The greatest weight.– What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live […]

“The mechanistic world is imagined only as sight and touch imagine a world (as “moved” ) –so as to be calculable– thus causal unities are invented, “things” (atoms) whose effect remains constant (–transference of the false concept of subject to the concept of the atom)… If we eliminate these additions, no things remain but only […]

Nietzsche began his career as a philologist (student of ancient text and languages) and developed an overriding interest in the Ancient Greeks, who he thought represented the peak of Western civilization before the onset of ‘slave’ or ‘herd’ morality which culminated in Christian, Utilitarian and Kantian systems of ethics (among others). Like Callicles, Nietzsche argued […]

The Open University has recently begun a series of podcasts on applied ethics, with discussion from leading philosophers including Peter Singer, Michael Sandel, Thomas Scanlon, Mary Warnock, and Roger Scruton. You can subscribe at

When Kant wrote about morality, he took up the challenge of sceptical empiricists like Hume. Our field of knowledge, thus emancipated from Humean skepticism, is nevertheless limited to the world of phenomena. All theoretical attempts to know things-in-themselves are bound to fail. This inevitable failure is the theme of the portion of the Critique of […]

Moral Nihilism


If we take moral scepticism seriously and find that we cannot find a satisfactory answer to the sceptic, we seem to be faced with the prospect that we cannot really justify morality.    This is the view that there are no such things as right and wrong, and no such thing as morality in general (or […]

These characters from Plato’s dialogues The Republic and Gorgias respectively are often thought of as arch moral sceptics.  They both challenge conventional morality as nothing more than an illusion created by the weak masses to control those who, by their nature, would have an advantage over everybody else.  Needless to say, Socrates ends up showing […]

A useful summary of this work by D. Anthony Storm can be found here.  Chapter 1 – the ‘Panegyric Upon Abraham’ is reproduced here.

Here’s a few facts about the scale of world poverty. You can find references here at You should also check out the information on AIDS, Pneumonia, Diarrhoea, Tuberclulosis, Malaria and Measles at 27–30,000 children die every day because of malnutrition, dehydration or easily preventable illnesses. This is equivalent to 10-11 million per year. […]

Peter Singer expands on his analogy of the drowning child in this article at New Internationalist (April, 1997).