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



Associate Professor Jacqueline Broad



  • Second semester 2017 (Day)



The unit will examine issues to do with virtue and the passions in the history of ethical thought. In the pre-modern era, the emotions or 'passions', such as love, desire, fear, and sadness, were seen as mental states that arose involuntarily in the soul as a result of its close connection with the body. They were commonly regarded as corrupting influences on an agent's moral choices and actions. To overcome their influence, philosophers recommended various techniques for either suppressing the passions or turning them into virtues or excellences of character. Following the Augustinian tradition, many regarded love as the key to transforming the passions. This unit explores the moral and metaphysical dimensions of this subject, with reference to both male and female philosophers of the past. Some of the thinkers who may be discussed include St Augustine, Rene Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Mary Astell, and David Hume. Some of the themes in the unit may be followed into contemporary philosophical discussions.


On successful completion of the unit, students will have:

  1. gained some understanding of the history of moral philosophy, especially issues to do with the role of virtue, free will, and the emotions in the attainment of happiness;
  2. reflected on some historical precedents to contemporary moral debates in virtue ethics and the emotions;
  3. developed an enhanced capacity for critical and rigorous reading of a philosophical text;
  4. developed skills in the evaluation of philosophical arguments in their original historical-intellectual context;
  5. developed skills in writing and argument in ways that are responsive to discussion in seminars.


Within semester assessment:70%

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 second-year Arts units. As this is a third-year level unit, it is highly recommended that students only take this unit after they have completed two second-year level units in Philosophy.