Year

2021

Credit points

10

Prerequisites

Nil

Incompatible

UNCC100 Self and Community: Exploring the Anatomy of Modern Society , PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics , PHCC102 Being Human

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, and will be offered in both semester attendance mode, and intensive mode. Different modes are required in order to provide all students with the opportunity to satisfy their Core Curriculum requirements in the context of a diverse range of course structures across the University. Semester attendance mode allows students to develop their understanding and engagements across an extended period, while intensive mode offers a more concentrated experience with students completing readings and activities in LEO during and shortly after extended class meetings.

Unit description and aim

This unit, which is part of ACU’s Core Curriculum, introduces students to philosophical reflection concerning some fundamental questions in ethics. Students explore a selection of key issues in metaethics concerning the nature of the good, the concept of moral responsibility, and problems in moral psychology concerning freedom, emotion, conscience, and intentions. Theories of normative ethics are also introduced, such as those based on duty, consequences, virtue, and natural law. Finally, students engage in philosophical exploration of practical moral problems drawn from fields such as business and professional ethics, environmental ethics, bioethics, the ethics of war, and/or issues in interpersonal relationships. Through reading some key historical and contemporary texts in moral philosophy, students are encouraged to identify, articulate and think through their own positions concerning the nature and complexities of the moral life, and to engage with the views of others. It also aims to enhance students’ skills in critical reflection on experience, the analysis of arguments, and the formulation and communication of coherent positions of their own.  

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and demonstrate comprehension of some of the central problems and important theories concerning moral value and ethical theory (GA5);

LO2 - analyse and review selected contemporary and historical debates in moral philosophy, noting ways in which theoretical reflection in ethics can be applied in practical situations, and develop reasoned responses to some key issues. (GA3; GA4; GA8);

LO3 - demonstrate beginning skills in the clear, well-structured and well-referenced presentation of a philosophical argument, in formal oral and/or written contexts (GA5; GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

Content

Topics will include: 

  • problems in metaethics such as the nature of moral responsibility, the possibility of moral knowledge, the notion of moral luck, and problems in moral psychology concerning freedom, emotion, conscience and intentions;   
  • theories of normative ethics such as deontological, utilitarian, virtue-based, and natural law approaches;  
  • selected issues in applied ethics drawn from fields such as business and professional ethics, environmental ethics, bioethics, the ethics of war, issues in interpersonal relationships, the ethics of the treatment of animals, and/or other areas of practical concern.  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, and will be offered in both semester attendance mode, and intensive mode. Different modes are required in order to provide all students with the opportunity to satisfy their Core Curriculum requirements in the context of a diverse range of course structures across the University. Semester attendance mode allows students to develop their understanding and engagements across an extended period, while intensive mode offers a more concentrated experience with students completing readings and activities in LEO during and shortly after extended class meetings. 

When offered in semester attendance mode, the unit has been designed as a blend of collaborative learning and project-based learning approaches, combined with some direct instruction to ensure that unfamiliar concepts and theories are understood. The collaborative learning aspect emerges most strongly in the interactive oral presentations and debates by students in class and which emerge out of peer learning and presentation contexts . The project-based aspect relates to the research project that students will engage in throughout the second half of the unit, culminating in their research essay.  

When offered in intensive mode, the unit will similarly utilise a blend of collaborative learning and project-based learning approaches, combined with direct instruction. The collaborative learning aspect emerges most strongly in the class or LEO forum-based interactions and which require students to enter into critical engagement with each other in thinking through key problems in the field. The project-based aspect relates to the research project that students will engage in throughout the second half of the unit, culminating in their research essay 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this introductory unit in philosophy is designed to facilitate broad engagement with what for many students will be a new field of study, while also making possible deeper engagement with one of the unit topics. For both modes of delivery, the early structured analysis task serves to build both a knowledge base and skills needed for effective philosophical analysis. The oral presentation/debate task (in semester attendance mode) or the class or LEO forum-based interactions (in intensive mode) are designed to facilitate collaborative learning and the presentation of coherent and carefully structured arguments in dialogue with others. The research essay task (in both modes) provides students with the opportunity to undertake sustained philosophical reading and research, culminating in an extended piece of formal writing that develops a coherent central argument.    

Overview of assessments

Semester attendance mode;

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Structured written analysis task

(Requires students to demonstrate an understanding of key concepts and debates)

20%

LO1

GA5

Collaborative oral presentation with written component

(Requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills in dialogue with others)

30%

LO1; LO2; LO3

GA3; GA4; GA5; GA7; GA8; GA9

Research Essay

(Requires students to analyse an important philosophical issue, and argue for a coherent position)

50%

LO1; LO2; LO3

GA3; GA4; GA5; GA8; GA9.

Intensive mode

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Structured written analysis task

(Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates)

20%

LO1

GA5

Structured responses to philosophical texts, and statement of position, on topic of the research essay

(Requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills, building toward a coherent position on an important philosophical issue)

30%

LO1; LO2; LO3

GA3; GA4; GA5; GA8; GA9

Research Essay

(Requires students to analyse an important philosophical issue, and to argue for a coherent position)

50%

LO1; LO2; LO3

GA3; GA4; GA5; GA8; GA9

Representative texts and references

Aristotle. (2002). Nicomachean Ethics. (C. Rowe and S. Brodie, trans). New York: Oxford University Press.

Carr, D. (2017) Varieties of Virtue Ethics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Copp, D (ed). (2007). The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hinman, L.M. (2013). Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory. 5th ed.

Boston: Wadsworth. Kirchin, S. (2012). Metaethics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Frey, R.G. (ed). (2007). A Companion to Applied Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Miller, A. (2013). Contemporary Metaethics: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Cambridge UK: Polity.

Ozolins, J. and Grainger, J (eds). (2015). Foundations of Healthcare Ethics: Theory to Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rachels, J. (2012). The Elements of Moral Philosophy. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. Trigg, R. (2005). Morality Matters. Malden MA: Blackwell.

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