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Advanced Topics in Ethics - PHI00084M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Ap Thomas
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Discussion of advanced topics in meta-ethics/normative ethics. Topics covered: the possibility of altruism, internal reasons, moral realism, error theory, expressivism, consequentialism, deontology, consequentialism, hybrid ethical theory, particularism, demandingness of morality, saving the one or the many.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of the module is to explore key themes about our ordinary notion of a reason for action, how that relates to the idea of right action, and how rightness is related to the idea of the value of an outcome. Specifically, on this module we will be reading, discussing and writing about:

Key themes in meta-ethics about reasons and the objectivity of morality;

Theories of the nature of moral language;

The main positions in normative ethics and how they are shaped by prior meta-ethical commitments.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • engage in independent research on advanced topics in ethics.
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the key views in both meta-ethics and normative ethics.
  • to defend informed opinions on advanced topics in ethics in an extended piece of writing.

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • read and critically engage with cutting edge research in these fields

Module content

This module builds on previous ethics modules to develop an advanced understanding of key themes in meta-ethics and normative ethics and their systematic interconnection. Themes such as the nature of reasons, agent-relativity and agent-neutrality about reasons in meta-ethics will be used to structure the different positions assessed in normative ethics – consequentialism, virtue ethics and hybrid ethical theory. An underlying theme is the connection between our ordinary notion of a reason and theoretical accounts of rightness, and the connection between whatever makes an action right and the idea of the intrinsic value of an outcome.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Summative essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

All feedback will be returned in line with current University and Departmental policy.

Indicative reading

Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge University Press, 1996);

Thomas Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism (Oxford University Press, 1979);

Christian Seidel (ed.) Consequentialism: New Directions New Problems (Oxford University Press, 2019);

Judith Jarvis Thomson, Normativity, (Open Court, 2008);

Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, (Fontana, 1985).

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.