Faculty of Arts

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6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit



Dr Robert Simpson



  • First semester 2016 (Day)


  • First semester 2016 (Day)
  • First semester 2016 (Flexible)
  • Second semester 2016 (Flexible)



This unit covers some central debates in ethical theory. A major focus is on opponents and proponents of consequentialist theories, such as utilitarianism, which judge the morality of an act solely in terms of its consequences. Alternative theories include other elements, such as the nature of the act itself, human rights, rationality, and the character of the actor. Another key theme of the unit is metaethics, which includes questions such as: Are there moral facts? If so, are they in some sense objective? Is moral judgement grounded primarily in reasoning or in emotion? What motivates us to do what we believe is right?


Students successfully completing this unit will

  1. Be familiar with central debates in ethical theory.
  2. Have acquired more sophisticated bibliographical skills, including independent use of digital and online material such as the Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, the Stanford Encyclopedia as well as more advanced reference works like the Cambridge Companions series.
  3. Have a firm grasp of referencing and citation requirements
  4. Have developed critical reading habits which allow the student to identify points of agreement and disagreement among a variety of authors.
  5. Be able to identify and charitably reconstruct arguments in more complex and demanding philosophical texts than those used in first-year, especially in the field of ethics.
  6. Have developed much more sophisticated skills in assessment of arguments.
  7. Demonstrate a greater capacity for independent thought and reflection in their essay writing.
  8. Have a more nuanced understanding of the methods used in philosophical ethics.
  9. Have a more nuanced understanding of the norms of philosophical writing. This additional understanding includes: anticipating and pre-empting potential objections to your thesis and showing that the difficulties faced by your preferred view are less problematic than those faced by competitors to your view.
  10. Have a more nuanced understanding of the norms of philosophical discussion. These include: seeking presuppositions, finding common ground and isolating specific sources of disagreement.


Within semester assessment: 60%
Exam: 40%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

Off-campus attendance requirements

Off-campus: no timetabled contact hours

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units. It is highly recommended that students only take this unit after they have completed two first-year level units in Philosophy or Bioethics.


ATS1839, AZA2939, AZA3939