Issues in Moral Philosophy

University of Stirling

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Issues in Moral Philosophy

  • Host University

    University of Stirling

  • Location

    Stirling, Scotland

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • SCQF Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Many of our moral beliefs are acquired and held quite unthinkingly; they are products of our
    upbringing and socialization, rather than of our own reflection on the right and the good. But
    sometimes we are forced, by the circumstances or problems that we face, to think critically
    about our moral beliefs, and to reflect on what we ought to believe: we might have to ask, for
    instance, whether it is really right to use animals for food; or what kind of care we ought to take of the natural environment.

    Even if such questions are not forced upon us by circumstances, we should anyway engage
    in some kind of critical reflection on our moral beliefs: if we are to be responsible and rationalbeings, we must think for ourselves about moral matters (as about other matters), rather thansimply being led by conventional opinions or ruling orthodoxies. In this module we will engage in critical, philosophical reflection on morality by examining a number of difficult moral issues, including questions about our treatment of animals, environmental values, punishment, and world hunger.

    The module will introduce students to some of the central issues in moral philosophy?both
    normative issues about how we should live, and more theoretical issues about right and wrong,
    and about the nature of moral thought and argument.

    The text for this module is?
    Hugh LaFollette (ed.), Ethics in Practice (3
    rd edition; Blackwell)
    Some reading will also be drawn from
    Joel Feinberg & Russ Shafer-Landau (eds.) Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some
    Basic Problems of Philosophy, 14th Edition, Wadsworth 2011
    Copies of which can be found in the University Library.

    I have included some supplementary reading, which may take a more sustained effort than the
    core texts but which should be ultimately rewarding if you take the time. A number of websites
    are listed: these give various perspectives on the core issues. Please keep your critical thinking hat on when reading these, as they tend to give one side of the argument.

    There will be three hours of classes each week, which will take the form of a mixture of lectures and class discussion. Videos appropriate to the subject matter may also be shown. Student attendance and participation at these classes is expected.

    Your grade for the module will be based on the following:
    (I) A short (1,000 - 1,500 words) critical report.
    (II) A longer (2,000 words) essay.
    You must submit both the essays if you are to receive a grade for the module. Essays are
    selectively second marked.
    The Department does not require students to type or word-process essays, but encourages them
    to do so?and if your handwriting is bad you should certainly do so. This is anyway a skill that you should aim to acquire, if you have not already done so. Please note that, unless special arrangements have been made and approved by the University, the Department does not accept electronically submitted essays: you must submit your essay on paper, through the departmental essay box.

    The module co-ordinator is:

    Week 1: Animals
    Core reading
    From LaFollette:
    P. Singer, ?All Animals are Equal?
    R. Frey, ?Moral Standing, the Value of Lives, and Speciesism?
    T. Regan, ?The Case for Animal Rights?
    M. A. Fox, ?The Moral Community?
    Supplementary reading
    T. Machan ?Why ?Animal Rights? Don?t Exist? at
    R. Scruton Animal Rights and Wrongs
    P. Singer Animal Liberation
    P. Singer In Defence of Animals
    C. Sunstein and M. Nussbaum (eds.) Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions
    Useful websites
    Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach

    Week 2: Environment
    Core reading
    From LaFollette:
    T. E. Hill, ?Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments?
    A. Carter, ?Hume and Nature?
    A. Leopold, ?The Land Ethic?
    D. Schmidtz, ?A Place for Cost-Benefit Analysis?
    Supplementary reading
    R. Attfield Environmental ethics: an overview for the twenty-first century
    J. R. DesJardins Environmental ethics: an introduction to environmental philosophy
    H. Rolston Environmental ethics: Duties to and Values in the Natural World
    Useful websites
    Bjorn Lomborg (climate change sceptic)
    Earth First! (UK)
    Greenpeace s
    Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (UK)

    Week 3: Famine
    Core reading
    From LaFollette:
    P. Singer, ?Famine, Affluence, and Morality?
    J. Arthur, ?Famine Relief and the Ideal Moral Code?
    T. Pogge, ?Eradicating Systemic Poverty: Brief for a Global Resources Dividend?
    Supplementary reading
    P. Singer The Life You Can Save
    Useful websites
    Giving What We Can:

    Week 4: Punishment
    Core reading
    From LaFollette:
    L. Pojman, ?In Defense of the Death Penalty?
    J. Reiman, ?Against the Death Penalty?
    J. Rachels, ?Punishment and Desert?
    J. P. Wright et al., ?Does Punishment Work??
    Supplementary reading
    H. A. Bedau ?Capital Punishment? in T. Regan (ed.) Matters of Life and Death
    R. A. Duff and D. Garland (eds.) A Reader on Punishment
    G. Erzorsky (ed.) Philosophical Perspectives on Punishment
    H. L. A. Hart Punishment and Responsibility

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations


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