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A branch of philosophy concerned with principles and norms of human behavior. Once called moral PHILOSOPHY, it was a required part of the basic curriculum at every colonial college from the opening of the first such institution, Harvard, in 1638. A key element of the curriculum that was studied over a student’s entire college career, moral philosophy dealt not only with man’s relationship to man, but his relationship to God, as interpreted by the churchmen who ran and ruled the colonial colleges. Moral philosophy was also a core element of the curriculum for older boys in most academies and LATIN SCHOOLS and was used to indoctrinate them in Protestant beliefs and various political points of view—usually those of the academy head. As the colonial era drew to a close and secular leaders replaced churchmen as college presidents, they gradually replaced theology as the basis of the curriculum with practical studies in the liberal arts and sciences. Moral philosophy, a theologically oriented course, was relegated to divinity schools and replaced in the liberal arts curriculum with secularized studies in ethics. Ethics is now a series of courses within the philosophy and theology departments of most liberal arts colleges. (See also MORALITY EDUCATION.)
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