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.

Programme details

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.


Description Costs
Short course fee 2024-25 £2450.00
Students enrolled on MSt in Practical Ethics (24-25) £2055.00
Students enrolled pre Sept 23 on MSt Practical Ethics (24-25) £1980.00


Professor Guy Kahane

Course Director

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.

Cesar Palacios Gonzalez

Deputy Course Director

Deputy Course Director: Dr César Palacios-González 

Dr César Palacios-González is a Senior Research Fellow in Practical Ethics. His research interests include bioethics, philosophy of medicine, neuroethics, and applied philosophy. He is part of the team running the Masters in Practical Ethics, offered by the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in the Faculty of Philosophy and the Department for Continuing Education. Dr Palacios-González graduated from The University of Manchester in 2016 with a PhD in Science Ethics, where he was part of the Wellcome Trust funded project 'The Human Body, its Scope, Limits and Future'. His doctoral work explored the ethics of human/non-human chimera research. Prior to coming to Oxford, he was a Research Associate at the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics, King's College London, working in the Wellcome Trust funded project "The Donation and Transfer of Human Reproductive Materials". There he explored the ethics of Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques and In Vitro Gametogenesis.

Dr Jonathan Pugh

Lead Tutor

Lead Tutor: Dr Jonathan Pugh

Dr Jonathan Pugh is a a Senior Research Fellow and Manager of Visitors Programmes for the Oxford Uehiro Centre, University of Oxford. Prior to joining the MSt, he was employed on the UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator Project. His research interests lie primarily in issues concerning personal autonomy in practical ethics, and he is the author of Autonomy, Rationality and Contemporary Bioethics. He has also written on the ethics of gene-editing, criminal justice, human enhancement, and neuroethics.

Teaching methods

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
    • Library 
    • Computer resource room
    • Common room and bar
    • Dining room

Assessment methods

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.


Application Status: Accepting applications

This module can be taken as part of the MSt in Practical Ethics, or as a stand-alone short course. 

Short course applications

This course requires you to complete the online application form (please press the 'Apply' button) and include a copy of your CV as an attachment.

If you are applying to take this course for academic you will also need to complete the reference section of the application form, and input the email address of your referee. Upon successfully submitting the application an email will be sent to your referee asking them to provide a reference in support your application for the course.

Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.


The short course application panel will convene in August. You will be notified of the outcome of your application shortly after. 

MSt in Practical Ethics applications

Please follow the application guidelines on the MSt in Practical Ethics page.

Selection criteria

  • 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).


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.

IT requirements

Please ensure that you have access to a computer that meets the specification detailed here: