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PI8012 Ethics

Ethics and Moral Motivation

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Lecturer: Dr Lizzy Ventham
  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures
  • Semester: 2

Module Outline

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.

Learning Aims

  • To think critically about issues in ethics and moral psychology.
  • To better understand current debates in ethics and moral psychology.
  • To critically assess the merits and weaknesses of different positions in contemporary debates.
  • To clearly articulate objections to theories and principles.
  • To construct arguments orally and in writing.

Learning Outcomes

Students will learn to read, evaluate and contribute to contemporary debates in moral psychology.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.


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

The word count includes footnotes but it does not include the bibliography.

Essays that go over the limit will be liable for a 5 mark deduction.

There will be a 5 mark deduction for each week an essay is late. Students may request an extension by contacting the lecturer of their module.

Students must attach a cover sheet to all Philosophy essays.