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Published: August 8, 2011

Moral philosophy

One of the three Aristotelian divisions of philosophy, which 18th-century educators in England and the American colonies used as a convenient approach to teaching philosophy. The other divisions were MENTAL PHILOSOPHY and NATURAL PHILOSOPHY. Mental philosophy covered logic and mathematics and natural philosophy related to botany and physics. Although Aristotelian moral philosophy dealt with ethical rules for a happy life, 18thcentury educators in the Americas were largely Protestant ministers, and the moral philosophy they taught was, in effect, the philosophy of the Protestant Christian religion. However, many of these Protestant ministers—and their congregants—were religious and political dissenters, who, unlike their counterparts in Anglican England, used moral philosophy to argue against the supremacy of the Church of England and the Crown. Indeed, moral philosophy as taught in some colonial institutions helped sow the seeds of revolution. In education, the moral philosophy of colonial and postcolonial institutions of higher education eventually evolved into a number of the elements of today’s social and political science curricula.