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2024/25 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

IDEA5322M Ethical Issues at the Beginning of Life (Online)

15 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Robbie Arrell

Taught: 1 Nov to 31 Jan View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is not approved as an Elective


This module aims to provide philosophical basis for critically examining the moral issues at the beginning of life, considering background theory as well as more specific issues such as:

- Theoretical issues such as: the value of life; moral personhood; the right to life, and rights conflicts; the non-identity problem; potentiality arguments
- Applied issues such as: abortion; prenatal screening; embryo research; reproduction; fertility; contraception

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:

- Display understanding of a number of key philosophical texts relating to beginning of life issues;
- Explain and evaluate competing approaches to central concepts in debates around beginning of life issues;
- Explain and evaluate arguments put forward in debates about beginning of life issues, and relate them to key theoretical positions.


We will consider a range of topics in the area, including for example:
- The value of life
- The right to life
- Moral personhood, including the moral status of human foetuses/embryos/gametes etc.
- Abortion and pre-natal screening
- Potentiality
- Reproductive rights, fertility treatment and reproductive technologies
- Embryo and stem cell research

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
On-line Learning82.0016.00
Independent online learning hours34.00
Private study hours100.00
Total Contact hours16.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

On-Line Learning = online tutor-led discussion.

Independent Online Learning = working through exercises online.

Private Study Time = students be assigned set readings, and will be given teaching materials to work through at their own pace. These materials will set the readings in context, at certain points provide prompts for carefully structured online discussions, which will be supported by tutors.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Essay plan (300 words); Gobbet plans (2x 100 words).

Contribution to online discussions will be assessed (on participation rather than content) to encourage regular, active participation.

There will also be an online personal tutoring system to review progress on completed modules and identify any areas where further support is needed.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Assignmentx2 500 word Gobbets (mid-module)40.00
Essay2000 words (end of module)50.00
Group DiscussionCourse participation in online discussions10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:42


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