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The University of Southampton

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

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • some key positions in moral philosophy, the core arguments for these views and the main objections which have been raised against them.
  • how to assess the different positions, taking possible objections into account and supporting your views with cogent argument.
  • how those positions relate to other philosophical issues
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.
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.


This module aims to introduce you to some central topics in philosophical reflection on ethics. 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 - Lectures - In class discussion - Essay group tutorials Learning activities include - Attending lectures - Contributing to discussion in lectures and tutorials - 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.

Independent Study110
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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

P Singer (1991). A Companion to Ethics. 



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.


Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 50%
Essay  (1000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 50%
Essay 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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