The University of Southampton

PHIL2012 Moral Philosophy

Module Overview

Moral philosophy is concerned with questions of right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and vice. Such questions are familiar: can it be right to lie to someone to avoid hurting their feelings? Is it okay to favour my friends and family, or should I be impartial in all my decisions? Should I give a portion of my income to charity? Is happiness all that ultimately matters, or might achievements, friendship, or understanding matter for their own sake too? What does it mean to have good character? This module focuses on normative ethics, which explores the prospects for general principles about what is right and wrong, good and bad, virtuous and vicious. For instance, might the fundamental moral principle be that we should always bring about the best outcome? Or that we should always treat people in ways that they could not reasonably reject? Or that we should always act as a virtuous person would? Is it always worse to bring about harm than to allow harm? Do the intentions with which we act bear on whether we did the right thing? Or might there be no general principles about morality?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Humans cannot avoid making decisions about how to act. In making these decisions, we might ask whether we are morally required to do certain things. For example, should I give a portion of my income to charity? Ought I to drink and drive? Moral Philosophy explores requirements of this kind. What kind of things are these requirements? What could they be based on? Can we find general moral principles to tell us how to act? The aim of this module is help you to further develop a reflective critical understanding of morality, relating your own views to the academic literature.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of some of the most influential theories in normative ethics.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of arguments for and against these theories.
Cognitive 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 effectively to deadlines.
  • think independently and critically.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • demonstrate enhanced skills in essay writing, planning and research.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics might include: - Consequentialism - Contractualism - Kantian Ethics - Virtue Ethics

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures. - In-class discussion. - One to one consultation with the module coordinator Learning activities include: - Attending lectures - Contributing to class discussion - Doing independent research

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

J L Mackie. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. 

Peter Singer. A Companion to Ethics. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Examination  (90 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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