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Introducing Moral Philosophy

Duration 10 weekly meetings
Tutor Dr Clea Rees
Course code PHI24A3250A
Fee £196
Concessionary fee £157 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

John Percival Building
Colum Drive
CF10 3EU

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This course will explore a selection of moral questions relevant to our lives as individuals and members of political and social communities.

Moral issues are frequently at the centre of political and social controversies.

  • Is abortion morally permissible?
  • Should pornography be censored?
  • What moral consideration is due to non-human animals?
  • What are our obligations to victims of famine in other countries?
  • What makes a relationship a good one?
  • Is death such a bad thing?
  • Should you use free software?
  • People or penguins?
  • What's wrong with slavery?

The course will examine what guidance philosophy may offer us as we clarify the questions and evaluate suggested solutions.

The following list of sample topics indicates the kind of subject matter which may be discussed but the specific issues selected will vary:

  • bioethics e.g. abortion (pro-life, pro-choice, feminist approaches), euthanasia
  • pornography and censorship (freedom of expression, offence vs. harm, feminist vs. non-feminist)
  • the moral status of non-human animals and its implications
  • our obligations to distant others vs. our obligations to those in our immediate family, community or nation
  • human relationships
  • sex roles
  • value and death
  • environmental ethics
  • justice & punishment
  • challenges of multiculturism
  • educational ethics
  • ethical issues in research
  • civil disobedience e.g. conscientious objection
  • computing ethics e.g. free software, the GPL, software piracy, digital rights management
  • terrorism  and civil liberties.

The course may draw on case studies and examples from fiction and non-fiction to illustrate the theoretical positions discussed and you are encouraged to draw further examples from their own experience.

Who is this course for?

Anyone with an interest in the topic. No previous knowledge in philosophy is assumed.

Learning and teaching

There will be a mixture of short lectures and discussion, the precise proportion to be determined by your needs. Also we will discuss examples and case-studies. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the ideas and concepts discussed in the course. Intellectual skills will be encouraged through participation in class discussion, reading and coursework.

Coursework and assessment

Essays or other equivalent written assignments to a total of 1,500 words demonstrating an understanding of core elements of the course material.

For us, the most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

You will not have formal examinations but you may be asked to write assignments, such as question prompt responses, or you might opt to write an essay. Our assessments are flexible to suit the course and you.

Reading suggestions

Reading and resources will vary according to the specific topics covered in the module. If you are considering the module you may find the following anthology helpful:

  • Peter Singer (ed.), Applied Ethics (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1986)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.