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The University of Southampton

PHIL2039 Ethics of Global Poverty

Module Overview

Ethics of Global Poverty examines the duties of affluent people towards those living in poverty around the world. Among the questions we will examine are: What obligations do we have to help strangers in need? What bases might such obligations have? Are some charitable causes better than others? Do we have an obligation to donate to the most effective charities, or do we have discretion in our charitable giving? How do we determine the limits of obligations of beneficence? How demanding can such obligations be? Do the major moral theories converge on answers to these questions?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • some of the basic concepts used in philosophical debates concerning global poverty.
  • problems, positions and arguments that play a key role in ethical debates about global poverty.
  • how to apply this understanding in addressing philosophical questions concerning global poverty.
  • how to relate the issues explored in this module to those in other modules (e.g. Ethics, Applied Ethics).
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • contribute to discussion in a critical but dispassionate way.
  • express views clearly and concisely.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions.
  • present ideas in writing, clearly and carefully.
  • debate and criticise ideas and arguments in an even-handed fashion.
  • articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics might include: • World poverty and philosophical ethics • Positive duties, negative duties, and new harms • Demandingness and the limits of beneficience • Effective altruism • Moral theories and duties to help the poor

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • In-class discussion • One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include • Attending classes • Contribution to class discussion • Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

Completion of assessment task22
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Wider reading or practice24
Follow-up work24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Richard W. Miller (2004). Beneficence, Duty and Distance’. Philosophy and Public Affairs. ,32 (4) , pp. 357-383.

Judith Lichtenberg (2014). Distant Strangers: Ethics, Psychology and Global Poverty. 

Peter Singer (1972). Famine, Affluence and Morality’. Philosophy and Public Affairs. ,1 (3) , pp. 229-243.

William MacAskill (2015). Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference. 

Thomas Pogge (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. 



Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Discussion board activity 25%
Essay 75%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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