Moral Theory

Course code PHIL3512
Not available in 2016


This course will outline some of the major issues and major standpoints in moral theory, ranging from the moral theories of the ancient Greeks and recent developments in contemporary times. It will cover a selection of issues, such as the following: What makes an action right? What things are good in themselves? What does it mean to say that some action is right, or some outcome good? Are there any objective moral facts, and how could we come to know them? Why be moral? The course will evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the answers to these questions, and those of the various standpoints introduced.


Not currently available.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Familiarity with, and knowledge of, the main issues raised by a number of the dominant traditions in moral philosophy, and other approaches to some of these issues.

2. Critical skills in dealing with these issues in their historical form, and the ability to employ these approaches in their assessment of current philosophical discussion of these matters.

3. High level written and oral skills in understanding and presenting philosophical issues in their historical contexts.


This course introduces students to classical and contemporary discussions in moral theory.

In any year, topics from one or more of the following areas may be discussed:

  • (a) Theories of the Good, such as hedonism and perfectionism, which are concerned with the question 'What things are good in themselves?';
  • (b) Theories of the Right, such as utilitarianism and deontology, which are concerned with the question 'What ought we to do?', and
  • (c) Meta-Ethics, which is concerned with the nature of moral language, the possibility of moral truth, the prospects for moral knowledge, and why we should be moral.

Assumed Knowledge

At least 10 units of PHIL courses at 1000 level or 40 units of any other course at any level.

Assessment Items

Essay: Essay 1

Essay: Essay 2

Contact Hours