Faculty of Arts

PHIL 268

Ethical Theory

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for PHIL 268.


This module will cover some central topics in contemporary moral theory. Topics may include: the Trolley problem; individual and collective responsibility; God and morality; the moral significance of personal identity; free will and moral responsibility; utilitarianism vs contractualism; the demands of morality; and the imposition of risk.

We will be asking questions such as the following: Are you responsible for all the causal consequences of your actions? Are individuals responsible for the actions of groups they belong to? What is the relationship (if any) between God and morality? Are human agents free or morally responsible? How demanding is morality? How should we aggregate the competing moral complaints of different people? When it is morally acceptable to impose risks on others?

Preliminary Reading:

Some good introductions to the issues and methods covered in the course are:

  • Parfit, D., Reasons and Persons, Oxford University Press, 1986, especially Part One (on collective responsibility) and Part Three (on personal identity and its moral significance).
  • Ashford, E., and Mulgan, T., "Contractualism", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy available online at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/contractualism/
  • Kamm, F., The Trolley Problem Mysteries, Oxford University Press, 2015, especially lecture 1.
  • Mulgan, T., Purpose in the Universe, Oxford University Press, 2015, especially chapters 1 and 2.




Coursework only

Availability 2020

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Professor Timothy Mulgan


PHIL 268: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage I in Philosophy or any 60 points passed from the BA or 30 points in Global Politics and Human Rights


PHIL 368

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