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Unit Overview

The core of this unit consists in a survey of influential moral theories. Students engage both with contemporary readings and with certain classic texts such as those of Aristotle, Kant and J. S. Mill. The details vary from year to year, but typically include: (1) theories of intrinsic value and wellbeing such as hedonism, preferentism and objective theories; (2) consequentialist theories of moral rightness, including act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism; (3) deontological theories of moral rightness, including pluralism, Kantianism and contractualism; and (4) virtue-ethical theories, with a focus on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics.
6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 core unit in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Human Rights major sequences
  • Level 3 option in the Philosophy; Artificial Intelligence major sequences
  • Level 3 elective
Students are able to (1) independently interpret complex philosophical texts; (2) demonstrate an understanding of complex philosophical arguments and positions; (3) evaluate complex philosophical positions and arguments; (4) weigh the virtues and vices of competing philosophical doctrines; (5) construct persuasive arguments concerning difficult philosophical issues; (6) demonstrate advanced written communication and research skills; (7) reflect on the nature and purpose of philosophy and philosophical argumentation; (8) understand how moral judgements differ from non-moral judgements; (9) recognise and utilise the sorts of evidence and reasoning that is relevant for establishing a moral conclusion; (10) apply general moral theories to concrete actions and social policies; (11) distinguish between deontological, consequentialist, and virtue-theoretical approaches to moral theorising; and (12) demonstrate a knowledge of three of the most influential texts in the history of Western moral philosophy—Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, and Mill's Utilitarianism.

Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essays; (2) examination; and (3) participation. 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
any Level 2 Philosophy unit
or PPHE2211
or PPHE3327
PHIL 2209 Moral Theory
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour 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.