Friday Reads: Moral Philosophy as Seen on T.V.
Have you seen the incredible viral tweet from a shopper in Blackwell’s Oxford Bookstore who spotted a genius display? It features all titles mentioned, referenced, or read by Chidi Anagonye, everyone’s favorite indecisive moral philosophy professor on the popular sitcom The Good Place.
And all those literary references certainly have people clamoring to learn more. Why not read the very books Chidi uses to teach moral philosophy, or as Eleanor puts it, “how to be a good person”?
The Republic is Plato’s masterwork. It was written 2,400 years ago and remains one of the most widely read books in the world, famous for both the richness of its ideas and the virtuosity of its writing. Presented as a dialogue between Plato’s teacher Socrates and various interlocutors, it is an exhortation to study philosophy, inviting its readers to reflect on the choices we must make if we are to live the best life available to us.
Tao Te Ching translates very roughly as “the way of integrity”. In its 81 verses it delivers a treatise on how to live in the world with goodness and integrity: an important kind of wisdom in a world where many people believe such a thing to be impossible. Taosim affirms that each human being is a reflection of the whole universe, a microcosm within the macrocosm, and that all of us live under the same cosmic laws of the Tao.
With masterly eloquence, Hume denies the immortality of the soul and the reality of space; considers the manner in which we form concepts of identity, cause and effect; and speculates upon the nature of freedom, virtue and emotion. Opposed both to metaphysics and to rationalism, Hume’s philosophy of informed scepticism sees man not as a religious creation, nor as a machine, but as a creature dominated by sentiment, passion and appetite.
The Ethics discusses the nature of practical reasoning, the value and the objects of pleasure, the different forms of friendship, and the relationship between individual virtue, society and the State.
Regarded as the father of Existentialism, Kierkegaard transformed philosophy with his conviction that we must all create our own nature; in this great work of religious anxiety, he argues that a true understanding of God can only be attained by making a personal “leap of faith.”
One of the most important nineteenth-century schools of thought, Utilitarianism propounds the view that the value or rightness of an action rests in how well it promotes the welfare of those affected by it, aiming for ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’.
An existential portrayal of Hell in Sartre’s best-known play, as well as three other brilliant, thought-provoking works: the reworking of the Electra-Orestes story, the conflict of a young intellectual torn between theory and conflict, and an arresting attack on American racism.
A seminal text of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781) made history by bringing together two opposing schools of thought: rationalism, which grounds all our knowledge in reason, and empiricism, which traces all our knowledge to experience
Rejecting the theory that some knowledge is innate in us, Locke argues that it derives from sense perceptions and experience, as analysed and developed by reason.
Need more moral philosophy titles? Check out our edelweiss collection: Philosophy!
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