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Study information

Philosophy of Morality

Module titlePhilosophy of Morality
Module codePHL1013
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Shane Glackin (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Almost daily we, both as individuals and as a society, are confronted with situations that are morally challenging. We are occasionally tempted to do things that we know to be wrong, and often we are not even sure what the right thing to do is. Amongst other things, we argue about the morality of abortion and assisted suicide, about animal rights and the rights of human embryos, about the permissibility of torture and the death penalty.

How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Philosophers have developed different theories that are meant to provide an answer. We will study these theories, look at various arguments that can be derived from them to show either the rightness or wrongness of certain actions or practices, e.g. abortion, and discuss their merits and weaknesses. No prior knowledge is required to complete this module.   

Module aims - intentions of the module

The course introduces students to basic principles of the main contending moral theories and seeks to show how these are involved in assessing moral justifiability and obligation. It will also draw attention to the complex relation between moral theory and moral judgment on the one hand, and the factual status of the phenomena and situations to which moral reasoning and principles are applied on the other.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. competently understand some of the main ethical theories;
  • 2. evaluate practical areas of ethical controversy in the light of these theories

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. reflect on and identify issues of fundamental ethical significance;
  • 4. relate these issues to social, historical and material features of the cultural environment

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. reflect on, and examine critically, taken-for-granted beliefs and values;
  • 6. analyze and communicate, clearly and directly, arguments and positions (both one's own and well-established ones.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics: Normative Ethics (including Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue Ethics) and Metaethics (including the fact-value distinction, non cognitivism, and error theories) problems and the ensuing debates in Metaethics.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity2211 x 2 hours per week comprising of lectures and seminars
Guided Independent study12832 hours preparation and writing of formative essay, 32 hours preparation and writing of summative essay 1, 32 hours preparation and writing of summative essay 2, 32 hours reading.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Opinion Piece750 words1-6Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1501,500 words1-6Written
Essay 2501,500 words1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 (1,500 words)Essay (1,500 words)1-6August/September reassessment period
Essay 2 (1,500 words)Essay (1,500 words)1-6August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Bennett, Christopher: What is this Thing Called Ethics?, London/ New York: Routledge 2010.
Rachels, James: The Right Thing to Do, 5th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill 2010.

Rachels, James & Stuart: The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 6th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill 2010.

Mill, John Stuart: Utilitarianism, ed. Roger Crisp, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

Philosophy, morality, reasoning, judgment

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date