Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

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Unit Overview


This unit provides an introduction to moral philosophy, and considers its application to problems arising out of the development of new, digital technologies. The first half of the unit covers several influential theories about what makes an action or policy morally right or morally wrong: the divine command theory, moral relativism, utilitarianism, two aspects of Immanuel Kant's deontological ethical theory, and virtue ethics. In the second half of the unit, applied ethical questions concerning cutting-edge digital technologies are discussed. In the near future, for example, autonomous vehicles will be routinely confronted with the need to make life-or-death decisions. What values should we ‘programme in' to such machines, and how should we decide? Is it possible for a machine to reason morally? How should we manage the risks inherent in the development of new technology? Is there a legitimate role for artificial intelligence in the law? Might sufficiently developed forms of artificial intelligence be said to have a form of consciousness, and might this have implications for how they ought to be treated?

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Semester 1OnlineOnline timetabled
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 1 core unit in the Data Science; International Cybersecurity; Computing and Data Science; Artificial Intelligence; Cybersecurity; Quantum Computing major sequences
  • Level 1 option in the Philosophy; Science and Technology in Society major sequences
  • Level 1 elective

Students are able to (1) evaluate arguments in philosophical texts; (2) independently construct arguments for philosophical positions; (3) apply the methodologies of contemporary philosophy; (4) evaluate assumptions underpinning ethical theories; (5) demonstrate sound research skills and written and oral communication skills; (6) demonstrate an understanding of important historical and contemporary philosophical ideas in moral philosophy; (7) articulate a number of contemporary ethical problems arising out of the development of digital technologies; (8) demonstrate their understanding of, and evaluate, several influential ethical theories; (9) apply the ethical theories studied to the problems arising out of the development of digital technologies; and (10) apply ethical theories to, and reason effectively about, new ethical questions.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research essay; (2) online quizzes; and (3) exam. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Assistant Professor Michael Rubin
Unit rules
PHIL1107 Ethics, Free Will and Meaning
Contact hours
3 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.