Ethics and Values in Western Thought

Mondays in April, in the Classics in Religion series. This group is open to all and meets Mondays at 11 a.m. to Noon at the Penn Yan Public Library.

Our first session, April 1, featured a summary of the play Jumpers as a basis for future discussions. We’ve reviewed the first session here.

Second session, April 8: ethics and values from early classical philosophy through the Cynics.

Third session: April 15 schools of thought from the Skeptics to Judeo-Christian approaches.

Fourth session, April 22: Renaissance philosophers through Immanuel Kant.

Final session, April 29: Kierkegaard through Existentialism to Darwin and Marx.

Original Program Description
We’ll meet on April 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 for presentations inspired by the 1970s play Jumpers, by Tom Stoppard, which is described as a “philosophical duel on the moral nature of man.” In the first session, Prof. Robert Darling will discuss the play to pose the question under consideration below:

“Unless one was prepared to take a relativist view that all values are a matter of personal taste, one could hardly avoid asking the question: ‘If, as I am convinced, the Nazis are wrong and we are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs?’”
—W.H. Auden, in a letter to Monroe Spears: 19 March 1962

In the following sessions, Dr. Darling plans to pursue this question through various versions of the ethical code in the western tradition. We’ll move from classical and biblical views up through time to the present day in a whirlwind run through western thought.

Dr. Robert Darling is Professor of English at Keuka College.

About Jumpers as it is described at Wikipedia:

Jumpers is a play by Tom Stoppard which was first performed in 1972. It explores and satirises the field of academic philosophy, likening it to a less-than skilful competitive gymnastics display. Jumpers raises questions such as “What do we know?” and “Where do values come from?” It is set in an alternative reality where some British astronauts have landed on the moon and “Radical Liberals” (read pragmatists and relativists) have taken over the British government (the play seems to suggest that pragmatists and relativists would be immoral: Archie says that murder is not wrong, merely “antisocial”). It was inspired by the notion that a manned moon landing would ruin the moon as a poetic trope and possibly lead to a collapse of moral values.

Read more about Jumpers at Wikipedia.

3 thoughts on “Ethics and Values in Western Thought

  1. Pingback: The Classics in Religion Series 2018-2019 – Cobblestone Springs Retreat Center

  2. Pingback: The Classics in Religion Series 2019-2020 – Cobblestone Springs Retreat Center

  3. Pingback: Past Topics for Classics in Religion – Cobblestone Springs Retreat Center

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