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Online course materials for PHIL20232


Unit code: PHIL20231
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 1
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: Y



Additional Requirements

Pre-Requisites: 20 PHIL credits at Level 1

20 PHIL credits at Level 1.


The course aims to:

- Guide students' development in thinking philosophically about ethics.
- Familiarise students with some important writings in contemporary philosophical ethics.
- Enhance students' ability to present and discuss philosophical issues orally, and their ability to present philosophical ideas and arguments in written work.


This course will focus on four questions of ethics: (i) which sorts of things are of ethical value and disvalue? (people? their actions? their intentions? their characters? the situations that they get themselves into?), (ii) what does their possessing this value demand of us? (e.g. that we bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number? that we treat others as ends, not means? that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us?), (iii) how do these demands motivate our actions (e.g. by arousing our passions, or our reason?), and (iv) why does it matter to us that these demands are met (i.e. why do we care about the demands that are made by morality)?

Teaching and learning methods

One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial per week

Learning outcomes

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

- Knowledge and understanding of some of the main texts and ideas in contemporary ethics.
- The ability to critically engage with these texts and ideas.
- The ability to present and discuss orally the examined ideas.
- The ability to present in writing clear, cogent, sustained philosophical arguments, based on relevant background research.

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Group/team working
  • Oral communication
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 67%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 33%

Recommended reading

Nagel T. The Possibility of Altruism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970.
Wiggins D. Ethics: Twelve Lectures on the Philosophy of Morality. London: Penguin, 2006
Williams B. Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. London: Fontana, 1985.

Feedback methods

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work. The main forms of feedback on this course are written feedback responses to assessed essays and exam answers.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lecture); presenting a question on the discussion board on Blackboard; and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Tutorials - 10 hours
  • Independent study hours - 170 hours

Teaching staff

Thomas Smith - Unit coordinator

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