How do we determine what to do when faced with hard choices? Is our own happiness uppermost in our mind, or is something else - loyalty to a friend, say. or religious principles? How can we live with integrity in the face of temptation or tragedy? These are ethical question, and questions like these demand that we think carefully about character.
Character comprises not only our distinctive qualities, but also our disposition to act in certain ways, for good or ill. Indeed, or word "ethical" derives from the Greek word for character, ethos, which like our word, can refer to a literary chacter ( a character) or to one's combination of qualities and dispositions. Aristotle thought that good character is the same thing as being good as a person. What did he mean by that?
Members of this introductory program will study works of philosophy, history psychology, science, anthropoloy, drama and fiction that iluminate our understanding of character. We enlist their aid in our exploration of the way in which character affects, and is affected by, desire, deliberation, action and suffering. We are especially interested in literary, historical and anthropological accounts that illustrate the character of both individuals and culture. These incidents may be profound moral dilemmas, or they may be the day-to-day trials that are woven into the fabric of individual and communal experience over time. They may also be acts of profound goodness or evil.
As we read, discuss, and write about examples of these themes, texts in ethical philosophy and anthropology will challenge and broaden our notions of character. We will pay special attention to the relationship between character and external goods, habits, happiness, friendships, and the duties that attend membership in communities of all kinds, such as families, workplaces, schools, public places and other forms of social organization.
Students will examine question of enduring concern that only rarely receive close and sustained attention within communities devoted to inquiry. We will practice ethical thinking as well as study it. Thus the program has at its center the opportunity to explore what it means to be good at being a person.