This course is designed to introduce students to a number of approaches in what is often referred to as "normative ethics". We face and hear about moral problems every day. These problems range from life and death matters concerning abortion, euthanasia and the like to other types of case such as whether to tell a lie to prevent hurting someone's feelings. At some point we might wonder whether there is a set of rules or principles (such as 'Do not lie') which will help us through these tricky problems; we might wonder whether there is something more simple underlying all of this 'ethical mess’ that we can discern.
Normative ethics contains a number of theories that attempt to give us such principles and to sort out the mess. In particular, different normative ethical theories are attempts to articulate reasons why a certain course of action is ethically best; they are attempts to say what types of feature we should concentrate on when thinking about ethical problems and why it is that such features are features which have ‘intrinsic moral significance’. Of course, ethical theories do not exist in a vacuum. As we shall see, our everyday intuitions about what is morally best are both the origin of normative ethical theories and the origin of thoughts raised against them. In all of this, the course will be examining these theories by starting with their historical roots, particularly focussing on the work of J. S. Mill, Immanuel Kant and Aristotle.
This module appears in the following module collections.
Total Contact Hours: 40
Method of assessment
Essay 1 (1,500 words) – 30%
Essay 2 (1,500 words) – 30%
Essay 3 (1,500 words) – 30%
Seminar Performance – 10%
Indicative Reading List
Aristotle (2009). Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford: OUP.
Kant, Immanuel (2012). Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge: CUP.
Mill, J.S. (2002). Utilitarianism. Indianapolis: Hackett.
Baron, Marcia, Philip Pettit, and Michael Slote (1997).Three Methods of Ethics. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
Kagan, Shelly (1997). Normative Ethics. Westview Press.
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Outline and show critical understanding through clear expression of consequentialism and Mill's utilitarianism;
Outline and show critical understanding through clear expression of a number of problems for consequentialism;
Outline and show critical understanding through clear expression of deontology and Kant's moral philosophy;
Outline and show critical understanding through clear expression of problems for deontologists;
Outline and show critical understanding through clear expression of virtue theory and Aristotle's ethics;
Outline and show critical understanding through clear expression of a number of problems for virtue theorists.
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Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
- ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
- The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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