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Level 4

4AAT1027 Elements of Ethics


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Christopher Hamilton
Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%); one two-hour examination (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: none
Places available: 65, priority will be given to BA Religion, Philosophy & Ethics students

Through lectures and discussion, students will be introduced to the key concepts in philosophical ethics.  Lectures will devote a substantial amount of time to the direct reading of and commentary on the key text in moral philosophy. The interactive nature of this method of teaching will require a flexible approach to the amount of material covered in any single lecture.

Students will have access to the text beforehand via KEATS, as well as to questions set on it. Students are required to read the indicated part of the text beforehand (usually two chapters a week) and arrive at the sessions with prepared answers to the set questions. This is part of students’ obligation for participation in the class. These answers will be used as the basis for discussion. All students will be encouraged to participate in these discussions.

Further information

Module aims

The aim of this module is to offer a level 4 introductory module in key themes in moral philosophy for first year students in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Through the study of a single text across the term – Mary Midgley’s Can’t We Make Moral Judgements? - students will be introduced to key concepts in philosophical ethics concerning the objectivity and subjectivity of moral values, relativism, the social sources of morality and the like. Supplementary readings will be suggested throughout. 

Learning outcomes
Generic skills
By the end of the module the student will be able to demonstrate a basic ability to:
  • analyse texts and arguments
  • summarise and present arguments
  • research, plan and present module tests to specified deadlines
  • prepare essays to be written in examination conditions
Module-specific skills
Students should acquire a basic familiarity with some key concepts in ethics; appreciate some key issues in meta-ethics; understand the nature of philosophical reflection on ethics.
Past syllabi
Previous syllabus document available to download here for academic year 2015-16.

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year. 
Core reading


  • Mary Midgley, Can’t We Make Moral Judgements?

Additional recommended

  • *Blackburn, S. Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics BJ1012 BLA
  • Harman, G., The Nature of Morality BJ37 H29
  • Mackie, J.L., Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong BJ37 MAC
  • MacIntyre, A. After Virtue BJ 1521 MAC
  • *MacIntyre, A., A Short History of Ethics K21 MAC
  • Murdoch, I., The Sovereignty of Good BJ1401 MUR
  • Norman, R., The Moral Philosophers BJ71
  • *Singer, P., A Companion to Ethics BJ1012
  • Singer, P., Practical Ethics BJ1012 SIN
  • *Williams, B., Morality BJ37 W651

* = especially recommended

Please note that students will be encouraged to buy a copy of the key text t be studied, Mary Midgley’s Can’t We Make Moral Judgements?

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