Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


PHIL100 Philosophy: the Big Questions or PHIL102 Theories of Human Nature or PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL107 Philosophy of World Religions or PHCC102 Being Human or PHCC104 Ethics and the Good Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. 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.

Unit rationale, description and aim

In this unit, students examine a selection of some of the most difficult moral problems of our time, considering a range of perspectives and arguments put forward by contemporary moral philosophers and applied ethicists, including normative and meta-ethical issues raised by these practical moral problems. The unit serves an important role in introducing students to significant moral debates confronting society, providing them with an opportunity to explore influential perspectives regarding those debates, and enabling them to develop a reasoned position of their own. The unit is designed to strengthen students’ philosophical acumen and to provide them with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage constructively on important social issues and ethical problems. It also aims to enhance the kinds of critical thinking skills that are important across a range of occupations or professions.

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 - identify and accurately explain some of the key dimensions of the contemporary moral problems explored in the unit, and some key scholarly responses to these problems (GA1; GA5); 

LO2 - critically analyse selected debates in contemporary applied ethics, and develop coherent and consistent positions in relation to them (GA3; GA4; GA8); 

LO3 - demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and clear use of philosophically effective English expression GA5; GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

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 


The selection of 3-4 contemporary moral problems to be investigated will be chosen by the lecturer, on the basis of matters of contemporary relevance drawn from areas such as the following:

  • the ethics of war and conflict;
  • ethical issues in business and professional practice;
  • ethical issues concerning the treatment of animals;
  • issues in environmental ethics;
  • ethical questions regarding the function of the law and punishment
  • ethical issues regarding the distribution of resources
  • the ethics of family and sexuality;
  • issues in social ethics such as the treatment of vulnerable and minority groups;
  • issues in healthcare and bioethics.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. 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 project learning along with direct instruction within a collaborative context. The direct instruction ensures that students develop a strong understanding of important philosophical concepts and theories and how they relate to the ethical problems under investigation, while the project learning enables the students to apply those concepts and theories critically and reflectively to the issues at hand. These forms of class room instruction and engagement are designed to support students’ attainment of the learning outcomes. Students will be asked to engage in class discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned opinion on distinct philosophical positions, after being introduced to them through readings and lectures.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the ethical issues and theories under consideration, and to deepen their ability to analyse and critically reflect on those issues and theories. It does so through a mix of cooperative/discussion-based and individual projects. The written analysis task examines understanding of key issues, concepts and debates. The oral presentation task examines critical thinking skills applied to this field, as well as skills in both oral and written communication/ engagement. The research essay examines higher level critical analysis and written argumentation skills in the field of applied ethics.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Written analysis task 

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9 

Oral presentation with written component 

Requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills in dialogue with others. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Argumentative/Research Essay 

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


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

De George, R.T. (2006). Business Ethics. 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 

Grisez, G. (1997). Difficult Moral Questions. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 

Halwani, R. (2010). Philosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An Introduction. New York: Routledge. 

La Follette, H (ed). (2005). The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Macdonald, Daniel. (2010). Catholic Social Teaching in Global Perspective. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis. 

Oderberg, D. S. (2000). Applied Ethics: A Non-Consequentialist Approach. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Pojman, L. P. (2001). Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application. Belmont, CA Wadsworth. 

Rae, S.B. (2009). Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 

Singer, P. (2010). The Life you Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty. New York: Random House. 

Taylor, A. (2003). Animals and Ethics: An Overview of the Philosophical Debate. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview. 

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