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PHL1150 - Ethics

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts


Caulfield First semester 2007 (Day)
Clayton First semester 2007 (Day)
Clayton First semester 2007 (Off-campus)
Clayton Second semester 2007 (Off-campus)
Clayton Summer semester A 2007 (Off-campus)
Gippsland First semester 2007 (Day)


Unit deals with some central debates in normative theory and their underpinning in the meta-ethical theories of Hume and Kant. A major focus of discussion is the opposition between consequentialist theories, such as utilitarianism, which judge rightness and wrongness solely in terms of consequences, and Kantian theory which judges rightness and wrongness according to whether the act is in accordance with rational will. How do these theories account for the agent-centred reasons which arise from relations of love and friendship and which seem to have the potential to conflict with impartial moral requirements? Is there a limit to our obligation to minimise suffering and maximise happiness.


On successful completion of this subject students will be able to describe and critically compare the major normative ethical theories. They will have a working understanding of what is at stake in the on-going debate between consequentialist and non-consequentialist theorists and will be familiar with common lines of argument used in this debate. They will be able to provide a reasoned defence of their preferred position on the place of impartialist reasoning in ethics. They should have further developed their capacity for reading philosophical texts and skills in the written exposition, evaluation and development of philosophical argument.


Exercise (750 words) : 20%
Essay (1800 words) : 40%
Examination (2 hours) 40%

Contact hours

2 hours (1 x 1 hour lecture and 1 x 1 hour tutorial) per week


Completion of philosophy studies to an advanced secondary level, and sufficiently high grades, to the satisfaction of the Undergraduate Coordinator.