Normative Ethics - PHIL6410

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


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.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30


Also available at Level 5 under code PL640

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

Indicative reading:

Aristotle (1985).Nicomachean Ethics. Indianapolis: Hackett.
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)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:

8.7 Show systematic understanding of key aspects of consequentialism and Mill's utilitarianism;
8.8 Critically discuss a number of problems for consequentialism;
8.9 Show systematic understanding of key aspects of deontology and Kant's moral philosophy;
8.10 Outline and critically discuss a number of problems for deontologists;
8.11 Show systematic understanding of key aspects of virtue theory and Aristotle's ethics;
8.12 Critically discuss a number of problems for virtue theorists.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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