PHI219 - Ethics: Theoretical & Practical

This module will consider fundamental questions in ethics through focusing on Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. We will consider the text in some detail, and discuss the questions it raises. For example, does it make sense to think that ethics has one ‘supreme principle’, and does Kant succeed in identifying it? How are we to explain moral duty and obligation, and what makes it necessary that we act on our duty? Is the best moral agent the one who acts from duty, rather than from inclination? Is it irrational to act immorally? Does morality involve categorical not hypothetical imperatives, and what is the difference between them? Is morality independent of us, or it is somehow constituted or constructed by us? Is there an argument from freedom to morality, or the other way round? Does Kant succeed in refuting moral scepticism? We will compare Kant’s approach to other options, including utilitarianism and virtue theory.


One coursework essay (50%) and one pre-released examination (50%). There is also an optional preparation assignment for the coursework essay which will get formative feedback and will not be assessed.


Bob Stern