Thinking morally: An introduction to utilitarianism

A gun’s pointed at your head. You see two buttons. The man holding the barrel to your temple says, “Push one, then go.” Button A removes the life support of an aging scientist. Button B drops a piano on two history students. What should you do?

Fanciful, certainly, but is there an answer? We all aspire to do “right,” but what does that mean? This course explores one answer: utilitarianism.

This is a beginner guide to one of the most misunderstood but popular moral theories. Students will also learn a little about the history of the theory and hopefully come away with a greater appreciation for how to think about real-world moral questions.

   282 students completed this course

   88% recommend it to other students

   Teacher: Jack Coulson


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88% of students recommend

  “A really excellent course. I knew very little about the topic going in and feel like I have a good idea of the basics and terminology now. It’s given me a great starting point for thinking about what aspects of utilitarianism I find particularly interesting and want to read more about. You can tell from the way the course was written that the author knows a lot about the topic and really cares about it, and I think he has done a great job of condensing that into 10 concise, clear, and very interesting lessons!”

  “Great introduction to what feels like an intuitive philosophical viewpoint that is very complex.”

  “Easily a top 5 course I have taken with you since I started this a year ago.”


Course plan

Lesson 1. Utilitarianism—What Is It?
Lesson 2. A Brief History of Utilitarianism
Lesson 3. Act Utilitarianism
Lesson 4. Utility—What Is It?
Lesson 5. Act Utilitarianism Defeated—“Philosophy Fit Only for Pigs”
Lesson 6. Act Utilitarianism—Things Get Worse
Lesson 7. Act Utilitarianism—Rebuttals
Lesson 8. Rule Utilitarianism
Lesson 9. Rule Utilitarianism—Objections
Lesson 10. Rule Utilitarianism—Rebuttals
+ Quiz



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  • Format
    One lesson delivered via email daily
  • Duration
    10 days
  • Time
    5 minutes reading a day

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