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Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics

Meet a diverse array of great thinkers and probe the most fascinating questions of ethics as they apply to our everyday lives in this engaging and thought-provoking course.
Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 40.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Topical Approach to Applied Ethics It took me a while to understand the framework of this course. At first glance, this course seems to be organized around a series of sometimes-banal questions such as the two lecture asking “Can I sneak a grape or two while shopping?” and “Is torture ever acceptable?” However, this topical approach actually allows Dr. Martin to examine fundamental questions of philosophy and morality. For example, in the lecture on sneaking a grape, Dr. Martin considers the philosophy of John Locke regarding property and the economic philosophy of property advanced by Any Rand, Milton Friedman, and Kenneth Arrow. (Most philosophy courses take a chronological approach rather than a topical approach; they normally start with Socrates – or pre-Socratics – and proceed in chronological order to the present.) Further, this topical approach allows Dr. Martin to work much more with application of ethical principles than a chronological approach would permit. The downside of this course is that it never concludes what morality is and how to apply it. Rather, it presents options advanced by a variety of philosophers. If it is true that each person must decide what is moral or ethical in each separate instance, how is that different from moral chaos? However, Dr. Martin has no choice in this matter. If the discipline itself cannot arrive at specific conclusions, how can Dr. Martin presume to advance specific conclusions? He is compelled to present the alternatives available and leave it to the student to make decisions. Dr. Martin is a good lecturer by The Great Courses (TGC) standards although not elite. He respectfully addresses a variety of perspectives without any bias that I was able to detect. The course guide is OK. It is written in bullet format as opposed to outline or paragraph (which is my preference). It averages about 6 pages per lecture, which is pretty good. It has no useful graphics. It has a bibliography at the end, but the bibliography does not include a sentence or two that describes what we might get from that reference (which is a useful feature in other TGC bibliographies). The course is available only in audio. The course was published in 2014.
Date published: 2023-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation Thoroughly informative, interesting and entertaining. Recommended for all Philosophy beginners.
Date published: 2022-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a really interesting and well produced course. It is filling my need for ethics discussions. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2022-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wrestling with ethical dilemas Enjoyable way to spend time. In short, it's simply a FUN course in an intellectually stimulating way. For me, it offered some new perspectives on how to approach moral decision making. Most major philosophers are introduced at some point, and the course includes Western and Eastern thinkers. Expect to come away with a wider worldview. Each lecture is practical and, I think, timeless. Each generation has to confront these issues at some point. Sure, some seem innocuous at first. But 15 minutes in, and you find that gossip and grapes are like icebergs. There's much more to it than what's on the surface. Some just seem impossible to put a pin on: health and materialism, for starters. I do like how the professor includes up-to-date anecdotes from movies, culture, personal life, etc. There are also a good number of history lessons, too. This course has improved daily interactions with friends--there's much more to talk about than the news/weather. I was really satisfied with this course, so much so that I started re-watching Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition.
Date published: 2021-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really worth listening to! This course is very practical. The topics are issues from every day life, from arguing with your wife to euthanasia. You might think that all of this is common sense, but how many times have we ignored the decision we thought was right because we weren’t sure. The professor shows you your options and their consequences. He takes his information from philosophers, religious figures, and sprinkles in a little of his own experiences. I have a lot of other courses with more bells and whistles, but I learned more information that I can apply in this course.
Date published: 2020-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Ethics Applied to Everyday Living Professor Martin has led an odd life for an academic, having lived the high-flying life of a successful business owner for several years before heading off for academia. Other reviewers have come down on both sides of the inclusion of his prior (and sometimes current) personal life in his lectures and examples. For me these personal asides were effective, but I find it hard to disagree with those who differ, especially as to the moral questions of using family members as examples in unflattering ways. The contents of the course vary widely: from lectures on “is gossip ethical?” and “why can’t I date a married person?” to is “torture acceptable?” and “Should I help a suffering loved one die?” Dr. Martin gives us a lot to think about, especially in some areas that we might not have considered as ethical problems. And he also along the way points out his many failures in meeting the very marks he sets as minimum standards (especially in recycling). Honest to a fault, but for me does not lessen the problems presented. A fine course that made me think about some issues in ways I had not previously considered. Can we eat a grape in the grocery store? What would Socrates do?
Date published: 2019-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb in every way This is one of the few Great Courses I've taken where I can't think of a single way the course could be improved. The course approaches moral philosophy from the point of view of everyday life dilemmas, which it turns out some of the greatest philosophers of all time have actually weighed in on, in one form or another. In each lecture, the professor starts with a practical question or issue and discusses what Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates or the Bible have to say about it. The professor clearly explains what these greats had to say, in enough detail to make the discussion rich in often unexpected ways. We also hear vivid examples from writers like Proust or Tolstoy, as well as some relevant anecdotes from popular culture. All in all, this is an accessible yet intellectually complex and always interesting discussion of moral issues that really matter in our lives. I may even listen to this series a second time. I recommend it for anyone who feels twinges of conscience in their quiet moments and wants to reflect on how to be a better, morally consistent person.
Date published: 2019-06-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Do As He Says, Not As He Does Professor Martin is well qualified, as so many of the lecturers are when they are chosen to host a course by The Great Courses; and as such I truly expected quite a bit more than how this series ended up. It was a bit like those Hollywood movies that grab and entertain you for an hour and a half, only to have the ending fall through the floor and have you leave feeling somewhat (or bitterly) disappointed. And while Professor Martin goes on and on about his many previous ventures before entering education, you begin to feel that this guy has had a pretty charmed life, selling expensive Rolex watches to players for the Dallas Cowboys, taking lavish vacations, and entertaining celebrities at parties. With each new story entering the picture throughout the lectures, you begin to wonder if deciding to become a professor was just a random thought or was actually a step down in his life. Here's but one example...recycling. Discarding his countless bottles of Diet Coke each day, he found no reason to throw them into the recycling bin next to his trash can; why bother he wondered? And then the city fined him for ignoring their recycling mandate (the bin was right there next to his trash bin, after all)…$100. But that did nothing to sway him (remember those Rolex watches). So he was fined again, and again. And almost grudgingly he says the message came through. So wait a minute, this is someone talking to us about the moral, ethical, and "right" decisions to make throughout our lives? After a few more of these tales, almost all of which appear towards the end, I began to feel as if I had been listening to a fascinating sermon only to discover that my pastor was an atheist. So here's my suggestion...start with listening to these lectures at the end of the series, say the last four lectures. And if you think he's got a lot to say then jump back and listen to the previous four before that. In my opinion, this will have you exiting the series with a bit more hopeful tune in that you may find that the "beginning" was actually a rather good "ending." Yes, one shouldn't judge a person's character by what one did in the past...but on the other hand, one does want to listen to lectures on moral decision making by someone who as practiced what he is preaching.
Date published: 2019-03-08
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What does it mean to live a good life? If we want to live ethically, it stands to reason that our daily habits and overall goals must align themselves with a certain moral code. Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics offers you the chance to reflect on some of the most powerful moral issues we face—as well as providing a framework for making the best decisions that will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life. Over the course of 24 thought-provoking lectures, Professor Clancy Martin of the University of Missouri–Kansas City introduces us to a variety of ethical “case studies”—the kind of difficult situations we have all faced at some point—and he shows us how great thinkers, from Socrates to Nietzsche to Bonhoeffer, approached similar problems.


Clancy Martin

We've all told lies and can think of reasons to justify them, but philosophers are surprisingly divided on whether deceit is ever ethical.


University of Missouri, Kansas City

Dr. Clancy Martin is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) and Professor of Business Ethics at UMKC's Henry W. Bloch School of Management. A specialist in moral psychology and existentialism, he earned his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. A 2011-2012 Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Martin has authored, coauthored, and edited a variety of books in philosophy, including Love, Lies, and Marriage; Honest Work: A Business Ethics Reader (with Robert Solomon and Joanne Ciulla); and The Philosophy of Deception. He has published dozens of articles, essays, and reviews on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Romanticism, the virtue of truthfulness, and many other subjects. His writing also has appeared in Harper’s Magazine (where he is a contributing editor), The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and numerous other forums. Before becoming a philosopher, Professor Clancy was a successful businessman and owned a chain of luxury jewelry stores, a wine bar, and a mergers and acquisitions company. He is a Pushcart Prize-winning fiction writer and author of two novels, How to Sell: A Novel and Travels in Central America. His work in progress includes a book on the nature of will, a novel, and several essays, both philosophical and popular.

Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics


Why Be Good?

01: Why Be Good?

Begin your survey of morality by asking some of the fundamental questions that philosophers have been grappling with for thousands of years. What is the source of morality? Is it culturally relative? Are humans innately good or evil? What role does society play in civilizing—or corrupting—us?

31 min
Is It Ever Permissible to Lie?

02: Is It Ever Permissible to Lie?

We’ve all told lies and can think of reasons to justify them, but philosophers are surprisingly divided on whether deceit is ever ethical. See what Plato, Kant, Machiavelli, Bonhoeffer, and others have said on the subject of why we lie, the relationship between truth and freedom, trust and intimacy, and more.

30 min
Aren’t Whistle-Blowers Being Disloyal?

03: Aren’t Whistle-Blowers Being Disloyal?

Put yourself in the shoes of a company employee who knows his friend is doing something unethical. Would you rat out your friend for the sake of the business? Should you? Explore the mechanism of dissent, the nature of loyalty, and the courage it takes to stand up for one’s principles.

29 min
What’s Wrong with Gossip?

04: What’s Wrong with Gossip?

Humans are hardwired to enjoy talking about other people. Harmless chatter can be entertaining and establishes intimacy within social circles, whereas malicious gossip provides a feeling of superiority. Consider the ethical pitfalls of gossip before turning to the various types of criticism we can direct toward others—as well as the ethical nuances of criticism’s counterparts, flattery and praise.

30 min
Do I Have an Obligation to Be Healthy?

05: Do I Have an Obligation to Be Healthy?

Shift your attention to the ethics of liberty, one of the most important moral values in Western society and a key value of American society. Is it ethical to eat, drink, and smoke whatever we want, wherever we want, and as much as we want? This lecture pits the views of Aristotle and John Rawls against those of Robert Nozick on individualism and self-determination.

29 min
Can I Sneak a Grape or Two While Shopping?

06: Can I Sneak a Grape or Two While Shopping?

Examine the philosophical history of how and why property has become so closely tied to morality in our culture. From John Locke to Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, you’ll find out how the pursuit of property ties in with the moral pillars of freedom and happiness in Western society. Then turn to Kenneth Arrow’s arguments in favor of regulating this pursuit.

34 min
Is It Wrong to Make as Much Money as I Can?

07: Is It Wrong to Make as Much Money as I Can?

Continue your examination of wealth and society by looking at what several great thinkers have had to say about the role of money and work in the pursuit of the good life. You’ll unpack Aristotle’s philosophy of moderation, study the surprising origins of the Protestant work ethic, and reflect on the dangers of pursuing money at the expense of society at large.

28 min
What Are My Obligations to the Poor?

08: What Are My Obligations to the Poor?

We know that most of the world’s religious traditions advocate giving money to the poor, but what do other, nonreligious thinkers have to say about charity? This lecture returns to Aristotle before introducing you to the worldviews of Andrew Carnegie and Peter Singer, both of whom will challenge what you think you know about charity and the poor.

29 min
Can We Do Better Than the Golden Rule?

09: Can We Do Better Than the Golden Rule?

This first in a series of lectures on interpersonal relationships examines what ethical obligations we have to others. How should we treat those around us? How can we resolve the tension between moral obligations to others with our personal freedom? Take an in-depth look at Kant’s categorical imperative, the idea that all humans are “ends in themselves.”

31 min
Why Can’t I Just Live for Pleasure?

10: Why Can’t I Just Live for Pleasure?

Consider hedonism: one-night stands, flashy cars, exotic vacations. What could be wrong with such a life? Survey the philosophy of “utilitarianism,” the philosophy that morality is a matter of seeking the greatest happiness for the greatest number. After exploring the distinction between “pleasure” and “happiness,” you’ll take a look at key objections to utilitarian ethics.

32 min
Why Can’t I Date a Married Person?

11: Why Can’t I Date a Married Person?

Dive into the stormy, unpredictable world of love and marriage. To begin with, consider what romantic love is. After surveying four distinct types of love, this lecture helps you navigate the moral norms that govern marriage with a look at the philosophies of the ancient Greeks, Kant, and Nietzsche.

28 min
Are Jealousy and Resentment Always Wrong?

12: Are Jealousy and Resentment Always Wrong?

Continue your study of moral psychology with an exploration of heartbreak, jealousy, and resentment. After tracing the relationship between emotion and reason, and the voluntary and involuntary components of emotions, you’ll analyze Nietzsche and Hume’s arguments that emotional responses can generate entire moral systems.

33 min
What Are the Rules for Respecting Privacy?

13: What Are the Rules for Respecting Privacy?

In today’s world, technology has complicated the ethics of interpersonal relationships—especially in the realm of privacy. How much privacy are we entitled to? How do intrusions into our privacy affect our freedom and autonomy? Reflect on the arguments for giving up some privacy for security, as well as the dangers of giving up too much.

29 min
What Do I Owe My Aging Parents?

14: What Do I Owe My Aging Parents?

Many of us will one day find ourselves in the position of caring for an aging parent. What ethical obligations do we have? What is the best way to take care of the elderly in our society? Travel the world to see what philosophers ranging from Confucius to Plato to William James have to say about filial piety and the ethics of care.

30 min
Should I Help a Suffering Loved One Die?

15: Should I Help a Suffering Loved One Die?

Medical technology is prolonging our lives, for better and for worse. In this lecture, you’ll explore the myriad complexities around euthanasia. Is there such a thing as a “good death”? What counts as “natural causes”? Is there a moral distinction between “pulling the plug” and assisted suicide? Consider the ethical pros and cons.

30 min
Is Genetic Enhancement “Playing God”?

16: Is Genetic Enhancement “Playing God”?

What if you had the opportunity to choose your child’s hair color? Or edit her DNA to protect against disease? Or determine your child’s intelligence and athletic ability? This kind of genetic programming is not as far-fetched as it sounds—and it raises a host of questions about human agency and social fairness.

28 min
Is Conscientious Objection a Moral Right?

17: Is Conscientious Objection a Moral Right?

Investigate the origins of “conscience.” Start with the ancient Greek view of “conscience” as an “inner demon.” Then turn to the social contract theory espoused by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, and the relationship between our individual consciences and society, law, and our obligations to each other.

29 min
Is It Always Wrong to Fight Back?

18: Is It Always Wrong to Fight Back?

Return to the realm of emotions and consider three closely related phenomena: anger, revenge, and forgiveness. First, you’ll consider the moral utility of anger; then, you’ll explore the dictum of “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” and see how vengeance, punishment, justice, and forgiveness are all more complicated than you might think.

32 min
Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?

19: Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?

The United States is one of the few Western nations that still have the death penalty. In this lecture, you’ll examine several arguments for and against the death penalty—and you’ll survey the larger system of punishment and justice in terms of vengeance, retribution, rehabilitation, and deterrence.

30 min
Is Torture Ever Acceptable?

20: Is Torture Ever Acceptable?

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 clearly laid out an international prohibition against torture, but is there a philosophical case for torture? After exploring myriad objections to torture, this lecture unpacks a utilitarian argument for why torture may be necessary under certain conditions.

29 min
Do Animals Have Rights?

21: Do Animals Have Rights?

Why do we think it’s all right to eat certain animals but not others? Do nonhuman animals have some quality that suggests they have rights? Do the consequences of society’s “social contract” extend to animals? See what Kant, Peter Singer, and other moral philosophers say about rationality, sentience, and the ethics and economics of animal rights.

29 min
Why Should I Recycle?

22: Why Should I Recycle?

What matters more, people or penguins? Because so much of our impact on the environment flies beneath our radar, the answer to this question is complex and has changed in recent years. In this lecture, you’ll examine Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development and apply them to pollution, waste, and the environment. Then consider the tension between corporate interests and environmental protection.

31 min
Does It Matter Where I Shop?

23: Does It Matter Where I Shop?

What kind of responsibilities do we have as citizens and consumers in terms of business, economic policy, and how we spend our dollars? Do we have an obligation to buy locally? To buy “free trade” products? After reviewing the economic theories of Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes, you’ll examine the contemporary force of globalization and the idea of a “global village.”

31 min
What Would Socrates Do?

24: What Would Socrates Do?

Conclude your study of ethical decision making with a look at the difference between belief and knowledge. Socratic wisdom comes from a stance of skepticism, a willingness to ask questions to free ourselves from the danger of moral hypocrisy. Take this sense of curiosity and open-mindedness into the world after the end of the course.

29 min