Faculty of Arts

PHIL 102

Introduction to Ethics

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for PHIL 102.


The philosophical study of ethics provides theoretical frameworks for thinking about questions such as "What makes an action right or wrong?", "What kind of person should I try to be?" and “Is morality objective or not?” A number of theories will be explored, evaluated and applied to practical moral issues such as our treatment of other animals, tolerance regarding cultural differences and obligations to future generations.

Overview of Course Content

The course has three components:

  1. An introduction to Ethics, focusing on a practical topic (Lectures 1 and 2)
  2. An examination of three influential (Western European) approaches to Normative Ethics: Utilitarianism, Deontology and Virtue Ethics. The discussion of each theory will be followed by an application of that theory to topic in practical ethics (Lectures 3 – 20)
  3. An introduction to Meta-Ethics, with a focus on Cultural Relativism. (Lectures 21- 24)

The course will end with a final lecture reflecting on the role of Normative Ethical Theory on ethical decision-making.

Course aims

  1. To introduce to students a range of approaches to normative, practical and meta-ethics, by outlining the main features of each approach, the reasons one might have for adopting such an approach and the standard objections to each approach.
  2. To encourage and enable students to form their own views on the merits of each approach to ethics, and to argue for these views.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Describe and, where relevant, compare, the theories presented to them in the course
  • Offer an evaluation of selected theories and views, including whether standard objections to them can met
  • Present their evaluations using the basic format of argument, objection and reply
  • Present and defend their own view on the topics covered, in the light of material presented in the course

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Dr Vanya Kovach

Recommended Reading

James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 5th ed. (McGraw Hill, 2007).

Piers Benn, Ethics (Routledge, 1998).


Coursework + exam


PHIL 102: 15.0 points



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