Big ideas: Right from Wrong

EAP APA Glossary Grammar Vocabulary Presentation skills

What exactly is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’?

1. The Is / Ought Problem
Do you draw conclusions from how things are to think about how things should be? There might be a gap in your reasoning.



Source: BBC (2014); Open University (2014). History of Ideas.  Duration: 01:28


2. The Life You Can Save

Is there an important difference between a child drowning in front of you and one dying in a far off land? The philosopher Peter Singer thinks not. He acknowledges that we have biases that lead us to favour those near us over those further away, but argues these are irrational.



Source: BBC (2014); Open University (2014). History of Ideas.  Duration: 01:31


3. The Trolley Problem

Is sacrificing one life to save the lives of many others the best possible outcome? The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway train racing down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The train is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the train will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

1) Do nothing, and the train kills the five people on the main track.

2) Pull the lever, diverting the train onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?




Source: BBC (2014); Open University (2014). History of Ideas.  Duration: 01:37


4. Kant’s Axe

Is it ever morally acceptable to tell a lie? Kant thought not. His example of the would-be murderer explains his reasoning



Source: BBC (2014); Open University (2014). History of Ideas.  Duration: 01:33




01. Beginnings
02. Who am I?
03. Being human
04. Knowledge
05. Beauty
06. Love
07. Freedom
08. Society
09. The good life
10. Right from wrong
11. Justice
12. Technology


01. Astronomy
02. Microgravity
03. Thoughts on theory
04. Theology explained
05. History of the English language
06. History of Money
07. Economics explained
08. The European Union explained