The Choice of Hercules

Lesson powerpoint here

The purpose of this session is to get students to reflect on the importance of living an ethical life for their own well-being and the well-being of others. They should use the session to examine Hercules’s choice between a life of pleasure and a life of virtue/an ethical life and to find ways of identifying how to be ethical in their daily lives.

  1. Using the lesson powerpoint, ask students to discuss the ring of Gyges (pron. guyjees) dilemma (from Plato)and the choice of Hercules with each other. In each dilemma, what would they choose and why? The second slide on the ring of Gyges is steering them towards discussing our motivation for being ethical: is it more about avoiding being caught, or being ethical out of a sense of duty?
  2. Discuss their ideas.
  3. Ask students to read the (true, Wellington) story about the exam cheat (on slides). Then show them the ‘what tells me to be ethical?’ slide. Ask them where they experience the rightness/wrongness of a situation. Is it a feeling or a thought or a mixture? The aim is to impress upon students the idea that we seem to have an ethical mechanism within our bodies/minds.
  4. Play the ‘would you save a stranger’ clip (14 minutes): why do they think Howard experienced the impulse to intervene? Was it a feeling or a thought?
  5. Show the ‘it’s ethical if…’ slide. Ask students to consider the principles for making decisions on the slide. Thinking about the characters in the ‘would you save a stranger’ clip, which ethical principles did the different people seem to be using? Which of these principles would help us make ethical decisions? Are some completely wrong? Do they use some at particular times (e.g. some with friends, some with family)? Where do these ethical principles come from?
  6. Play the outrospection part 2 clip (5 minutes). This clip suggests that we need to develop empathy to become as ethical in life as possible. Put the ‘I’m ethical when…’ slide up on the screen. Ask students to decide which of these areas they need to be more ethical in and why. They should also decide which ethical principles apply in which areas of life (these slides will be laminated and in WB classroom to make discussion easier).

Prep. Try to be as ethical as possible over the next 2 weeks. Make as many decisions as possible according to ethical principles (rather than just what feels good at the time). Write about your experiences.