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Unit information: Ethics in 2021/22

Unit name Ethics
Unit code PHIL20011
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Alan Wilson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Philosophical Ethics is generally divided into three parts as follows.

1. Metaethics. What is the nature of a moral judgment? Do moral judgements have truth-values, or are they something else (e.g. commands or expressions of emotion)?

2. Normative ethics. What makes a given action right and another wrong? What is the relation between the right and the good? Can we articulate a moral theory that is both clear and consistent in its own right, and captures most of our intuitive sense of what is right and wrong?

3. Applied ethics. Here we take the theories of normative ethics and apply them to real-life moral and political topics such as abortion, euthanasia, sexual conduct, free speech, censorship, the justification of punishment, and of course many others.

The balance of this unit will be about 80% normative ethics and 20% applied ethics. The focus will be on the three great theories of normative ethics that dominate the current debate, basing ethics on (a) consequences (eg utilitarians), (b) duty (Kant and his followers), and (c) virtue (Aristotelians). But it’s impossible to grasp the key differences between these three distinct approaches to ethical theory without at least sketching some of their practical implications, so parts of the unit will inevitably spill over from the normative theories to their implications for applied ethics. It surely matters to your views on, e.g., sexual morality or the role of consent in medicine if your basic principles are utilitarian, Kantian, or Aristotelian.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

1. demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the central issues, debates, and positions, in ethics,

2. demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the central literature on these issues, debates, and positions,

3. demonstrate the ability to critically engage with, and philosophically analyse, these issues, debates, and positions, together with the central literature on them, to a standard appropriate for level I/5,

4. demonstrate skills in philosophical writing, of a standard appropriate to level I/5,

5. demonstrate independent research skills of a standard appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching Information

Lectures, small group work, individual exercises, seminars and virtual learning environment.

Assessment Information

ALL ASSESSMENT IS SUMMATIVE: 3000 word essay - 100% [designed to test ILOs 1-5]


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How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.