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Unit information: Ethics in 2015/16

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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. Tudor Baetu
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


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 course 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 course 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

By the end of this module students will

(1) developed a detailed knowledge of and acquired an in-depth understanding of the central issues, debates, and positions, in ethics.

(2) gained familiarity with some of the central literature on these issues, debates, and positions.

(3) developed skills in the researching, reading and presentation of complex material, on these topics, as appropriate to Level-I.

Teaching details

1 lecture + 1 seminar per week.

Assessment Details

Formative: two 2,000-2500 word essays designed to test learning outcomes (1)-(3).

Summative: one 3-hour unseen exam designed to test learning outcomes (1)-(3).

Reading and References

Baron , Pettit, and Slote, Three Methods of Ethics (Blackwell, Oxford, 1997)