The University of Southampton
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PHIL1005 Ethics

Module Overview

We all make moral judgements every day. Today you might have decided not to push into a queue because it would be unfair. You might think that murder is wrong but that it is still not permissible for the state to take an innocent life in retribution. You might have been appalled at an item on the radio, exclaiming that large international companies should not use loopholes to avoid paying taxes. Ethics explores these moral judgements. You will explore the nature of moral judgements. What am I doing when I say that something is wrong? Am I merely expressing my own preferences or am I trying to report some external truth? You will also consider theories about how we should act. Is morality about bringing about the greatest happiness for everyone concerned? Is it wrong to lie even when doing so won’t have any bad consequences?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

We all make moral judgements every day. You might decide not to push into a queue because it would be unfair. You might think that international companies should not use loopholes to avoid paying taxes. You might believe that murder is wrong but that it is not permissible for the state to take a murderer’s life in retribution. But how are we to decide what is right and wrong? Is the right thing to do whatever will bring about the greatest happiness for everyone concerned? Is it wrong to lie even when doing so won’t have any bad consequences? And what am I doing when I say, for example, that something is wrong? Am I merely expressing my own preferences or am I trying to state some objective fact? This module aims to introduce you to some central topics in philosophical reflection on ethics. It will investigate theories which philosophers have advanced about how we should act and about the nature of moral judgement.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • explain some key positions in moral philosophy, the core arguments for these views and the main objections which have been raised against them.
  • assess the different positions, taking possible objections into account and supporting your view with cogent argument.
  • relate those positions to other philosophical issues and bring them to bear on your own moral thinking.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake, with adequate supervision, independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • work as part of a team in your essay group meetings on the analysis and evaluation of texts.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions.
  • present and debate ideas, both orally and in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.

Syllabus

This module aims to introduce you to some central topics in philosophical reflection on ethics. It will focus on a number of classic texts, including work by Aristotle, Kant, Mill and Nietzsche. You can expect to explore such topics as: o Are moral judgements simply expressions of our personal preferences or feelings? Or do they express our beliefs about reality? o Can moral judgements be true or false? If so, is the truth or falsity of a moral judgement dependent in some way on the culture or society to which one belongs? o Can we find a general principle that tells us how to act?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include ? Two lectures weekly ? Discussion hours ? Essay group tutorials Learning activities include ? Attending lectures ? Contributing to discussion in lectures, discussion hours and essay group meetings ? Doing research for and writing assessed essays ? Applying techniques and skills learnt to your reading and writing inside and outside the module In the lectures, you will not only be introduced to the philosophical issues central to this module and the ideas of the philosophers studied but also encouraged to think about them for yourself. Your own ideas and any difficulties you encounter can be raised and discussed in essay group meetings, and you will have the opportunity to revise your written work in light of feedback received in individual sessions. The writing of essays and your preparation for exams should involve you in thinking deeply about the relevant issues and texts.

TypeHours
Independent Study113
Teaching37
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

P Singer (1991). A Companion to Ethics. 

H J Gensler (1998). Ethics: a Contemporary Introduction. 

Blackboard. 

J S Mill & J Bentham (2004). Utilitarianism & Other Essays. 

S Blackburn (2001). Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Formative assessment: ? Oral and written feedback on drafts of essays from your essay group leader. ? Oral feedback from the module convenor on any other aspect of your performance in this module in optional one-to-one meetings during office hours or by appointment.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 33.33%
Essay  (1000 words) 33.33%
Essay  (1000 words) 33.33%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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