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Ethics, The Limits of Morality

Module Code: PI8009

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Lecturer: Dr Lizzy Ventham
  • Contact Hours: 22

Module Outline - Ethics and Moral Motivation

Suppose a person is presented by a choice: to spend their time doing some good for others at a cost to themselves, or to spend their time on other personal pursuits. Sometimes they’ll choose to do the former, sometimes they’ll choose to do the latter. What’s behind these choices? What makes people do what they judge to be the right thing to do?
This module will introduce students to a number of advanced and active debates in ethics and moral psychology. Students will learn theories and arguments about our mental lives, and the role they play in our moral action. The course will cover some of the following issues:
- What it is for an experience to be a pleasant or unpleasant one.
- Under what conditions an agent has a reason to act.
- The relationship between what we have reason to do and what we desire.
- The relationship between our moral obligations and our desires.
- How demanding morality can be of us.
As well as learning to analyse and answer questions on these topics, students will learn about the answers and arguments given to these questions from important contemporary and historical figures.

Module Learning Aims

Suppose a person is presented by a choice: to spend their time doing some good for others at a cost to themselves, or to spend their time on other personal pursuits. Sometimes they’ll choose to do the former, sometimes they’ll choose to do the latter. What’s behind these choices? What makes people do what they judge to be the right thing to do?
This module will introduce students to a number of advanced and active debates in ethics and moral psychology. Students will learn theories and arguments about our mental lives, and the role they play in our moral action. The course will cover some of the following issues:
- What it is for an experience to be a pleasant, unpleasant or painful one.
- Under what conditions an agent has a reason to act.
- The relationship between what we have reason to do and what we desire.
- The relationship between our moral obligations and our desires.
- How demanding morality can be of us.
As well as learning to analyse and answer questions on these topics, students will learn about the answers and arguments given to these questions from important contemporary and historical figures.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Think critically about issues in normative ethics, meta-ethics and moral psychology.
  • Better understand current debates in normative ethics, meta-ethics and moral psychology.
  • Critically assess the merits of different positions in contemporary debates.
  • Clearly articulate objections to theories and principles.
  • Construct ethical arguments orally and in writing.

PhD students will be required to write one substantial essay (3,000-4,000 words). Students should confirm the essay title with their lecturer.