Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics - PL303

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
4 15 (7.5) DR GA Forbes







This module will introduce students to a number of big questions in ethics. The questions may include the following: What makes a life good? Is it happiness? Or is it something else? Another big question is: What makes actions right or wrong? Is it God demanding or forbidding them? Or are actions perhaps right to the extent that they serve to make lives better off, and wrong to the extent that they make lives worse off? Some philosophers have thought so. Others wonder: What if I steal money from someone so rich that my act in no way makes their life go any worse. Might it still be the case that I have acted wrongly—even if I haven't made anyone worse off? A third bit question is this: What’s the status of morality? Is it, for example, the case that what’s right for me might be wrong for you? Does it make any sense at all to talk about moral claims being true or false, even relative to moral communities? Might moral judgments be nothing but expressions of sentiments? Throughout the course, students will be examining these and similar questions from the point of view of a variety of philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and David Hume.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

• Essay 1 (1,500 words) – 30%
• Essay 2 (2,000 words) – 60%
• Seminar Performance – 10%

Preliminary reading

Indicative Reading List

Russ Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, 2012
Russ Shafer-Landau, The Ethical Life (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, 2012.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Demonstrate understanding of the basic questions about the nature of moral philosophising through an examination of a range of moral thinkers and schools;
8.2 Understand the connections and differences between moral philosophy and other kinds of study, including moral anthropology;
8.3 Analyse and critically appraise logical arguments;
8.4 Plan and write a philosophical essay and build it around a coherent argument;
8.5 Demonstrate a basic knowledge of certain fundamental and enduring debates about the respective roles of reason and feeling (emotion) in moral argument and judgment;
8.6 Demonstrate a grasp of what it is for a moral theory to be objective or, alternatively, subjective, and the various senses that can be given to these terms;
8.7 Understand something of how empirical and historical accounts of moral cultures and practices bear upon issues of truth and falsity in ethics.

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