Ethics and Moral Reasoning

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Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” says Aristotle, one of the first philosophers to tout the virtues of teaching ethics rather than expecting human beings to naturally assume moral principles.

This spring’s ethics course covers thinkers from the ancient Greeks to many from the 20th and 21st century: Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes and Locke, Nietzsche, Satre, Nel Noddings, Martin Luther King Jr. and David Foster Wallace, among others. The course also looks at current events and attempts to analyze these controversial modern topics through the ethical frameworks presented each week. Academic Dean Shane Macelhiney and faculty member Eliot Taft are co-teaching the course Moral Reasoning and Ethics: An Examined Life.

“Ethics classes, I think, are usually misunderstood.  Many students come in to an ethics course wary of the upcoming content – I mean, who wants to be told by a teacher or an old, and usually dead, philosopher about how you ought to live your life?” says Eliot.  “This year, Shane and I are concentrating really hard on presenting our students with a number of different ethical frameworks which span the course of thousands of years of thinking.  We’re hoping that our students will be able to look at a number of ways people have created moral scaffolding – and maybe, just maybe, one framework will resonate and affect their future decision-making.”

As an intentional community of roughly 125 students, The White Mountain School has its own code of conduct.  From our mission statement to our community handbook – our students here are ingrained with four years of principled thought surrounding curiosity, courage and compassion. We believe in the deliberate examination of how one ought to live a good life, and we require one half credit of a Philosophy and Religious Studies course as a graduation requirement.

Whether or not our students truly latch on to one specific thinker or one specific framework, here at White Mountain, we believe that our students ought to inquire just as much about educating their mind, as they should be engaged with the leanings of their hearts. After all, we are a School of inquiry and engagement – and we believe that is the foundation of a true education.

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