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Level 6

6AAT3044 Special Questions in Social 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 this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Tony Milligan
Assessment: One 2,500-word essay (40%) and one 3,000-word essay (60%)

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

Teaching pattern: Two-hour classes over ten weeks
Pre-requisites: none

The educational aim of the course consists in providing students with a critical understanding of social ethics with its epistemological and meatethical dimension and its contexts of application. A special focus will be laid on the Christian perspective.

The approach will be a problem- and skill-oriented approach. Through lectures, students will be introduced to contemporary discussions of social ethics. Students will be provided with handouts that will help them to follow the key debates. They will also be directed in reading assignments. Some time will be assigned to discussion in class. The interactive nature of this method of teaching will require a flexible approach to the amount of material covered in any single lecture.

Sample topics

  • Social ethics and individual ethics
  • Social Ethics and institutions
  • Poverty, Social Exclusion, Theories of Justice and “classics” in the field
  • Virtues and Social Ethics
  • Concepts of racism and discrimination
  • Social Ethics and Feminist Philosophy
  • Social Ethics, Terrorism and Torture
  • The social ethics of ageing
  • Political Philosophy: Social Ethics and Economics/European Values
  • Social Ethics and Environmental Ethics
  • Social Ethics, globalization and a vision of Europe

Preliminary / suggested reading

  • Cor Unum, World Hunger – a Challenge for all. Vatican City: Vatican Press 1996;
  • M. Stackhouse, Public Theology and Political Economy. Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans 1987
  • D. Hollenbach, The Common Good and Christian Ethics. Cambridge UP 2000
  • Ch. Taylor, Modern social imaginaries. Durham: Duke UP 2004
  • E. Turiel, The culture of morality: social development, context and conflict. Cambridge UP 2002

Past syllabus

Please find syllabus document available here for academic year 2015-16. Please be aware that the content of the syllabus will differ each academic year. 

Further information

Module aims

The aim of this module is twofold. On the one hand it deals with a number of key issues in social ethics: issues concerning gender, social exclusion, justice, ageing, health, the constraining of economic activity and the ethical standing of political violence. Special attention will be given to the Christian perspective on these matters. On the other hand, the module also explores and develops the contrast which is sometimes made between individual ethics and social ethics: between the complex and varying ethical and religious commitments and obligations that we acknowledge and live by at a personal and inter-personal level, and matters that we might, alternatively, legislate for or promote as requirements for a good, or at least tolerant, society. 

Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • Ability to analyse texts and arguments
  • Ability to summarise and present arguments
  • Ability to research, plan and present essays to specified deadlines 

Module specific skills

  • Be introduced to metaethical questions of social ethics
  • Become familiar with some key debates of applied social ethics
  • Develop a critical sense of the relevance of social ethics for urgent social problems
  • Develop a critical sense of the challenge of the Christian contribution to current debates in social ethics


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