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PHIL511 Philosophy and the Moral Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit provides an introduction to philosophy of the human person, thereby providing a rich context for understanding the 'presenting person' in healthcare settings. As such it considers problems such as personal identity; free will; consciousness and issues around the relatedness of body, mind and soul; life meaning and understandings of death; sexuality and gender; reason and emotion; the individual and community; and so on. Each of these issues will be considered in the context of an exploration of the nature of illness and wellness, and of the activity and vocation of providing care for the unwell.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

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

LO1 - demonstrate an understanding of various issues and problems in philosophical anthropology (GA8);

LO2 - give a critical account of the significance of several such issues for clinical practice (GA4; GA8);

LO3 - assess, with others, the implications of different theoretical understandings of the human person to particular clinical situations (GA4; GA7). 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

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


Topics chosen from the following broad areas:

  • The patient as a human person;
  • The lived experience of illness;
  • Selected issues in philosophical anthropology of relevance to the ethics of healthcare:
  • personal identity;
  • individual freedom;
  • holistic understanding of the human person: consciousness and the relatedness of body, mind and soul;
  • life meaning and understandings of death;
  • sexuality and gender;
  • reason and emotion;
  • the individual and community

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. The unit has been designed as a blend of a blend of collaborative learning and project-based learning approaches, combined with direct instruction to introduce and draw out new and unfamiliar concepts and theories. The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the small group discussion of the weekly readings. The project-based aspect relates to the research project on which students work throughout the second half of the unit, culminating in their research essay. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

 The assessment strategy for this unit is designed to facilitate broad engagement across the topics covered, while also requiring deeper engagement with one of the unit topics in particular. The tutorial oral and accompanying short written task requires students to demonstrate skills in attentive and accurate reading of a key text, and to explicate it in clear and concise oral and written formats. The short written task that follows requires students to explicate and analyse another text at greater length. Finally, the research essay task provides students with the opportunity to undertake sustained philosophical reading and research, culminating in an extended piece of formal writing that examines their capacity to develop a coherent argument in response to an important philosophical question.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Tutorial oral and associated short written task  

Requires students to demonstrate skills in written and spoken exposition and analysis of a text. 




Written analysis task 

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA8

Argumentative/Research Essay

Requires students to critically analyse an important debate in the field and to develop a coherent position.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

Emonet, P. (2000) The Greatest Marvel of Nature: An Introduction to the Philosophy of the Human Person. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.

Jeeves, Malcolm (ed). (2004) From Cells to Souls, and Beyond: Changing Portraits of Human Nature. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Palmer, D. (2000) Visions of Human Nature: An Introduction. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. Pojman, L. P. (2006) Who Are We?: Theories of Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sadler, B.L and A. Ridenour. (2009) Transforming the Healthcare Experience Through the Arts. Aesthetics Inc.

Sontag. S. (2001) Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. New York: Picador. 

Stevenson, L.(2009) Ten Theories of Human Nature. (5th ed). New York: Oxford University Press.

Thagard, P. (2010) The Brain and the Meaning of Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Torchia, J. (2008) Exploring Personhood: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Human Nature. Lanham, MD: Rowman& Littlefield Publishers.

Trigg, R. (1999) Ideas of Human Nature: An Historical Introduction. (2nd ed). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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