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2024/25 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

IDEA5210M Introduction to Ethics: Reasons, Motivation, Obligations and Happiness

15 creditsClass Size: 45

Module manager: Dr Graham Bex-Priestley

Taught: 1 Sep to 30 Nov View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is not approved as an Elective


Professional or, more generally, applied ethics is that branch of ethics (or moral philosophy) which focuses on ethical issues that arise in practice. The aim of studying professional and applied ethics is to use philosophical reflection, insights and understandings to help clarify, and possibly even resolve, controversial issues or problems that arise in a particular domain - such as that of finance, computing, the environment, or engineering, for example.

One starting point for the study of professional ethics is ethics itself: what it is about, its methods, its concepts, its challenges, limitations and achievements. Our focus in this module will be some of the central concerns that are prominent in ethical discussion generally. These include moral psychology, duty or obligation, the good human life (or well-being or happiness), the importance of consequences, and virtues and vices such as truthfulness, justice, courage, self-control, cowardice, meanness or foolishness.

We will introduce some central philosophical approaches to these matters, and consider how they relate to one another, or differ. The rest of this course will provide you with an opportunity to reflect on the relation between these broader matters in ethical theory and our particular concern with issues and problems in professional life.

The aim of this module is therefore to enable you to begin to address some critical general issues in ethics, for example:
- How ought you to live your life?
- Are there some components that any human ought to include in a good or flourishing life? What is happiness?
- What is virtue? What, if anything, is the relation between virtue and happiness?
- What is the role of reason in a good human life, and what is the role of passion or desire?
- Is ethical action better understood in terms of doing one's duty, and if so how are an agent's duties to be determined?
- Ought you to do what brings about the best consequences - For you? For everyone?
- Are there some moral rules that must be exceptionless? If so, why?

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should have an ability to:
- understand some of the central concepts involved in the study of ethics;
- evaluate critically some of the main theoretical approaches to ethics;
- apply this understanding to the development of thoughtful and well presented arguments which reflect their own critical engagement with the material studied.


Topics may include, for example:

- Method and Reasoning in Ethics
- Challenges to Ethics: Relativism
- Challenges to Ethics: Why be ethical?
- Virtue theory: Virtues and Practical Wisdom (eg Plato/Aristotle)
- Eudaimonism (eg Plato/Aristotle)
- Duties and Deontology (eg Kant)
- Reason and Desire in ethics (eg Aristotle/Hume/ Kant)
- Consequentialism and Pleasure (eg Hume/Mill)
- Contractualism (eg Plato/Hobbes)
- Casuistry.

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: completing 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

Coursework plans (2x 100 words), essay plans (200 words).

Tutors will be involved in students' discussions to monitor their contributions, and provide clarification or answer questions where necessary. Access to teaching materials will also be logged through the VLE, which will give some indication of students' progress in independent learning.

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
Essay1500 words (end of module)50.00
Group DiscussionCourse participation (in online group discussions)10.00
Assignmentx2 500 word Gobbets40.00
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: 07/06/2024 15:34:54


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