Professor A C Grayling lecture: ethics versus morality
Professor A C Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities, visited Warminster School on Thursday 5th of February to talk to the Upper Sixth, and some Lower Sixth RS pupils, about the difference between ethics and morality. While both of these terms are often treated as synonyms, Professor Grayling argued that they do mean different things. It is true that ethics is to do with questions of right and wrong, but it includes more culturally-specific interests and attitudes and is more about character and virtues, whereas morality is not hypothetical and is more about fixed rules concerning what is right and wrong. Ethics is about ‘ethos,’ about who we are as a person. Professor Grayling concentrated more on ethics and went back to the ancients to discuss the changes in ethos across time, using examples including Socrates and the story of Troy to make the point that what counts as virtuous at one point in time will depend upon contingent values which will change, giving rise to different virtues at a later period of time.
Speaking without notes or ICT for the best part of an hour, all those who attended the lecture were hugely impressed with Professor Grayling’s skill as a speaker and knowledge of Philosophy, the Classics and literature in general. Between his classical and philosophical allusions, Professor Grayling included jokes and light-hearted cultural references that kept the audience not only edified, but also amused. After the lecture Professor Grayling mentioned how impressed he was with the quality of questions from the Upper Sixth. Indeed, various sixth formers were able to quote Socrates or draw upon other philosophers such as Kant to ask probing questions, to which Professor Grayling gave full, rich answers.
We are very grateful to Professor Grayling for taking the time to visit and deliver such an interesting lecture.