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Study information

Practical Ethics

Module titlePractical Ethics
Module codePHL2112
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Stephan Guttinger (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

We confront moral issues and make moral decisions every day, but we don’t always think about them as carefully as we could. In this module, you will engage in debates on contemporary moral and social issues, such as whether we should be vegetarian, whether we should develop and use brain interfaces, who should be allowed to vote, whether we are ever justified in silencing opinions, and whether the ban on doping in sport is morally justified. Careful consideration of these issues, along with the methods and motivations of applied ethics more broadly, will facilitate the development of analytical and critical skills that will aid you in your broader processes of moral reasoning and in your other academic studies.

There are no pre- or co-requisites for this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to engage you in some very important contemporary debates in applied ethics. By the end of the module, you should be able to:

1)    Understand the motivations and methods of practical ethics;

2)    Assess arguments for different social and moral positions; and

3)    Discuss in a philosophically sophisticated manner some of the most pressing contemporary moral controversies.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Identify and discuss the issues raised in some key contemporary debates in applied ethics.
  • 2. Distinguish and evaluate certain positions and arguments within some key contemporary debates in applied ethics.
  • 3. Demonstrate a sound grasp of the methods of applied ethics.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate a good understanding of the relationship between the practical and theoretical aspects of philosophy.
  • 5. Demonstrate sound knowledge of different types of philosophical analysis.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Demonstrate an expanded philosophical vocabulary and understanding with respect to key ideas in practical ethics.
  • 7. Engage in complex arguments both orally and through writing.
  • 8. Conduct research independently engaging with complex ideas and problems.

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 in practical ethics:

1)     Veganism and the environment.

2)    Capital punishment.

3)    Citizenship, suffrage and the right to vote.

4)    Twitter and free speech.

5)    Abortion.

6)    Drugs and sport.

7)   Immigration.

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 Activities22Weekly 2-hour lectures/seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar
Guided Independent Study45Preparation for lectures and tutorial participation including reading, and preparing reading reports and answers to tutorial questions.
Guided Independent Study83Independent research for the first and final essays.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay outlineOutline of final essay (500 words)1-8Written/peer review

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
Essay401300 words1-7Written
Final Essay602000 words1-8Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (1300 words)1-7August/September reassessment period
EssayEssay (2000 words)1-8August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Hugh LaFollette (ed.) (2014), Ethics in Practice: An Anthology, 4th edition, John Wiley & Sons.

Key words search

Ethics, applied ethics, practical ethics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date