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Ethical Theory - PHI00082I

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Christopher Jay
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The aim of this module is to introduce students to a number of central debates in ethical theory. We will begin by looking at theories of well-being, and considering whether happiness and/or the fulfilment of one’s desires can be considered a central component of the good life.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The module begins by considering, in some detail, various forms of consequentialism (of which utilitarianism is the most famous, but far from the only, variety). We will consider challenges arising from uncertainty, demandingness, and the difficulties associated with different ideas about what counts as the best outcome. After several weeks exploring this kind of ethical theory, we move on to consider non-consequentialist ethical theories, and the virtues. We end, in the last few weeks of the module, by considering some general issues such as whether one can have obligations to do what is impossible. The aim of the module is not to investigate particular problems in applied ethics, but to consider ethical theories and theoretical issues which structure our thinking about what to do in particular situations.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

—understand and explain a range of key problems, issues, and debates in ethical theory and express this understanding in clear, precise, and accessible terms

—develop and articulate ranges of alternative solutions to problems and issues in ethical theory in an open-minded way, drawing on module materials

—develop and articulate arguments for the alternative solutions considered in relation to problems and issues in ethical theory, drawing on module materials, identifying some points of weakness and some potential points for development

—make a judgement about what is the best view on a particular problem in ethical theory and argue in defence of this judgement

—identify some of their strengths and weaknesses by evaluating their own work in relation to departmental marking criteria

—apply simple strategies for improving their work, based on critical reflection, advice, and feedback

—critically engage with social, political, cultural, ethical, and value issues to contribute to the solution of key contemporary problems


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

All feedback to be returned within University and Departmental guidelines.

Indicative reading

Reading for this course will consist of a variety of contemporary and classical papers made available on the VLE.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.