Introduction to Ethical Thinking

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

21 Jan 2019 - 25 Mar 2019
Day of week

Introduction to Ethical Thinking


'Happiness is the supreme good' said the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. He is one of many philosophers who have tried to answer the question 'what makes the good life?'  

It is not an easy question to answer but the central one to anyone who wishes to live an ethical life. In this introductory course on ethical thinking, the student will be introduced to many important ethical and metethical questions and led through the different responses to these questions by examining a number of ethical theories. The course will end with the application of these ethical theories to a contemporary moral problem.

Programme details

Term Starts:   21st January        


Week 1:          What is the good life?

Week 2:          Egoism: what is in my interest.

Week 3:          Hedonism: the happy life

Week 4:          Natural law: what is given by nature

Week 5:          Existentialism: radical freedom

Week 6:          Utilitarianism; the greatest happiness

Week 7:          Kantian ethics: the good will

Week 8:          Contractarianism: social agreement

Week 9:          Virtue ethics: being of virtuous character

Week 10:        Applied ethics


Background Reading List

Aristotle, Ethics

Kant, The Moral Law. tr.Paton

Mill, J.S., Utilitarianism. ed. Crisp

Rawls, J.A., Theory of justice

Macintyre, After virtue

Driver, J., Ethics: The Fundamentals


If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.


Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Helen Barnard

Helen Barnard has been teaching at the Department of Continuing Education for 10 years as well as a second level course in philosophy with the Open University. Her specialist interest is environmental ethics but also all other aspects of ethics.

Course aims

To introduce students to philosophical analysis of a number of different ethical theories

Course Objectives

1. To introduce students to the main ethical theories.

2. To give students a good knowledge and understanding of the opposition between a number of dfferent ethical theories and to be able to offer arguments for and against those theories.

3. To give students practice in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

Teaching methods

Students will be asked to read  a relevant text each week before class. For each topic the students will have an opportunity to take part in open debate.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be expected to:


1. Have knowledge and understanding of the ethical theories taught in class

2. Have learnt how to offer arguemnts for and against the main positions introduced and have learnt skills in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

3. Have gained confidence in expressing ideas in open debate.

Assessment methods

Course work will consist of etither one essay of 1500 words or two pieces of work of 750 words each, one which may be substituted by a presentation of a paper.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)