2007 HPA223 Ethics and the Postmodern Age

Unit Level: Intermediate

Available as a Student Elective: Yes

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See also   HPA323

Not Offered


This unit looks at developments in ethics in response to problems of modernity and postmodernity, specifically, the threats to the authority of moral discourse posed by a pluralist society and moral relativism. Students consider questions such as: "How can I say that my values are better than someone else's?"; "What is the difference between morality and power?"; "How does my life get its meaning?"; "How can a society maintain moral order when it has many different ideas about moral values?"; "How should I live?". The unit builds upon earlier units HPA181 (Introduction to Moral Philosophy) and HPA210/310 (Moral Philosophy). The unit begins with an overview of classical and modern approaches to ethics: Greek virtue ethics and Kantian ethics (with its Christian worldview). Students then consider Nietzsche's criticism of Christian morality as 'ressentiment' and 'anti-life' through his notion of 'will to power' and the idea of ethics as an aesthetic activity directed toward the self. The adequacy of this view is examined, including its more recent form in Foucault's idea of discourse as power. Finally students study Paul Ricour's conception of narrative ethics as a response to the fragmentation of postmodern life. This view promises unity and meaning to one's own life, as well as the life of a society, in the face of the 'death of grand narratives'.

WEIGHT: 12.5%

ASSESSMENT: 2,000 word essay (40%), 3-hour exam (60%)

TEACHING PATTERN: 12 weeks of lectures and 9 weeks of tutorials

Prereq 100% Arts at 100 level, including 25% 100 level Philosophy

STAFF: Dr Kim Atkins

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