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The University of Southampton

PHIL6063 Action, Reason and Ethics

Module Overview

Questions we shall consider may include: What is an action? What is it to act intentionally? What are reasons for action? Do all, some, or none of our reasons depend on our desires? Do moral considerations necessarily provide reasons for action, or is there sometimes most reason to be immoral? What is it to act for the right reasons? What makes our actions worthy of praise or blame? Are there general principles which determine what we have reason to do?

Aims and Objectives

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 the issues raised by some of the above questions
  • demonstrate a solid grasp of the concepts and arguments that they involve
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 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.
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.


The syllabus for this module may vary from year to year. Topics typically include: - The nature of intentional action - Reasons for action - The relationship between morality and rationality - The relationship between reasons and rationality - Praiseworthiness and blameworthiness - The role of principles in ethics

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 - Contributing to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed essays and exams

Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice25
Follow-up work20
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Elijah Millgram (2002). Varieties of Practical Reasoning. 

Julia Markovits (2014).  Moral Reason. 

Nomy Arpaly (2002).  Unprincipled Virtue. 

Michael Smith (1994).  The Moral Problem. 

Eric Wiland (2012).  Reasons, Continuum. 


Assessment Strategy

For MA students taking this module, expectations will be significantly higher than those for year 3 undergraduate students attending the same lectures, and the assessment criteria will accordingly by stricter. In particular students will be required to demonstrate extremely high levels of detailed and accurate exposition, critical engagement, organisation and presentation, with scholarship that draws on appropriate primary literature.


Business case or Essay plan


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments  ( words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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