Ethical Concepts and Methods
An introduction to the key concepts and methods of contemporary ethics, aiming to provide you with a working knowledge of the basic concepts and approaches needed to engage in philosophical practical ethics. The aim of this module it enable practitioners to think more critically and philosophically about ethical issues in everyday life, especially in their own area of interest or professional practice.
It should be of interest to professionals from many sectors whose role involves dealing with the issues raised, making presentations or producing publications in this area.
We will ask whether there are ways to rationally arrive at agreed answers to difficult ethical questions and whether our ethical views can ever be more than an expression of our subjective opinions, gut reactions, and arbitrary cultural influences. We will investigate the distinction between fact and value (or ‘descriptive’ and ‘normative’), introduce basic metaethical positions, and assess competing ethical frameworks, such as utilitarianism, Kantian ethics and virtue ethics.
We will then discuss basic ethical principles, such as principles relating to beneficence and justice. We will consider what is distinctive of practical ethics as such, and how it might be related to, yet different from, more theoretical forms of moral philosophy, and we will examine different methodological approaches to practical ethics, including reflective equilibrium and intuitionism.
We will also consider the relation between practical ethics and other disciplines, such as law, medicine, social science or neuroscience, and ways in which empirical knowledge from such disciplines can inform ethical reflection. We will look closely at prominent examples of influential work in practical ethics and try to identify the qualities that make them effective.
We will discuss different approaches to writing a strong essay and publishable papers in practical ethics and consider how writing in this area differs from that in other disciplines as well as other areas of philosophy.
Accommodation is available at the Rewley House Residential Centre, within the Department for Continuing Education, in central Oxford. The comfortable, en-suite, study-bedrooms have been rated as 4-Star Campus accommodation under the Quality In Tourism scheme, and come with tea- and coffee-making facilities, free Wi-Fi access and Freeview TV. Guests can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme
Bed and breakfast accommodation at other University colleges can also be booked on the Oxford Rooms website.
Please ensure that you have access to a computer that meets the specification detailed here:
Short course fee: £1900.00
Students enrolled on MSt in Practical Ethics: £1480.00
Professor Julian Savulescu has held the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford since 2002. He holds degrees in medicine, neuroscience and bioethics. He is the Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics within the Faculty of Philosophy. He is Director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, which is one of three strategic centres in biomedical ethics in the UK funded by the Wellcome Trust. In 2014, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator award to work on Responsibility and Health Care. He is also Director of the Institute for Science and Ethics within the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, where he examines the ethical implications of technology affecting the mind, as well as leading an interdisciplinary programme on collective responsibility for infectious disease. In 2017, he will establish the interdisciplinary Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities with co-Directors in Public Health, Psychiatry and History.
Professor Savulescu is a leader in medical and practical ethics. He is Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, the highest impact journal in the field, and founding editor of Journal of Practical Ethics, an open access journal in Practical Ethics. He is the Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Monash University and the Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bucharest in 2014.
Dr Guy Kahane is the Director of Studies at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Deputy Director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. He is also a Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy in Pembroke College, Oxford and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford. Kahane joined the Uehiro Centre as research fellow in 2005, and held a Wellcome Trust University Award in Biomedical Ethics from 2009 to 2014. Kahane is the author of over 70 papers on practical ethics, the psychology and neuroscience of morality, and on other topics in moral philosophy. He was associate editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, and is currently an associate editor of the Journal of Practical Ethics.
Teaching staff and associates of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics will present on the week-long intensive sessions.
This course consists of an intensive teaching week in Oxford to include lectures, seminars, discussion groups and student presentations.
The teaching week will be fully supported online via a Virtual Learning Environment to include essential readings, texts and online lectures. Students can continue discussions when away from Oxford using the online forums.
Students will also have access to:
- Oxford's Libraries online learning resources
- Facilities available at the Department for Continuing Education:
- Graduate Room with study space, printing facilities, lockers and refreshments
- Computer resource room
- Common room and bar
- Dining room
Assessment for each module will be based on a written assignment, which shall not be of more than 3,500 words.
This course can be taken with or without academic credit. All participants who satisfy the course requirements will receive a Certificate of Attendance. Those opting to take the course for credit and successfully complete an assignment will also receive 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 7 (postgraduate). Credit points are recognised by many employers and universities in the UK and internationally.
This module can be taken as part of the MSt in Practical Ethics, or as a stand-alone short course.
Short course applications
We strongly recommend that you download and save files before completing to ensure that all your changes are saved.
This course requires you to complete the application form and submit along with a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.
Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.
The short course application panel will convene at certain times in the year to assess all short course applications received by that date. These dates are to be finalised, but are likely to be at the end of January, March and August (further dates may become available depending on numbers).
MSt in Practical Ethics applications
Please follow the application guidelines on the MSt in Practical Ethics page.
- Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject.
- However, in the absence of an appropriate undergraduate degree, sufficient relevant professional experience and/or other educational attainment may be considered as evidence of suitability in some circumstances.
- For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.
- Applicants will need to have a good working knowledge of email, internet, word processing and Windows applications (for communications with course members, course team and administration).
- Where applicable, applicants will need to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support