Foyle’s War and moral theory

One way I found to add pizzazz to the classroom experience is to show appropriate movies for analysis. It is easy to use movies to bring out the features of various ethical theories. One might, e.g., show Shane and compare it with High Noon to bring out the differences between consequentialism and a duty based deontological system. Or, build a thought experiment around a more recent film: Imagine it possible to develop a perfume that would bring about universal love when released on the world. Further imagine that to develop this perfume would require the murder of a dozen young women in order to extract their “essence”.  A dozen deaths to eliminate hatred among billions of people – the end of war and barbarism.  (Sound familiar? Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) Should we murder a dozen to save millions? Would a utilitarian ethic justify these murders? [Source]

Well I am retired now and do not have a captive audience to try films, but if I did I would certainly use the three part post war episodes of Foyle’s War.  (available on Acorn) The moral questions raised in those episodes are interesting and fundamental.

Those questions probe the nature of meta-ethics: is consequentialism the best approach to deciding what to do? Is there an absolute set of rules that should be followed? When theory and practice collide what to do? Does the end justify the means (always, sometimes, never) ? If truth is the first casualty in war is principle far behind?

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