Practical Ethics - 2017

This unit contains mature content including Adult Themes and may not be suitable for some students.
Any student under the age of 16 who would like to enrol in this unit must first complete a Parental Consent Form.

Unit summary


  • Level of Study: Undergraduate Level 2
  • Study load: 0.125 EFTSL
  • Delivery method: Fully Online
  • Prerequisites: Yes
  • Duration: 13 weeks
  • Government loans available: FEE-HELP, HECS-HELP
  • Availability for 2017: Sem1 , Sem3
  • Availability for 2018: Sem1 , Sem3
  • Assessment: Essay (30%) , Paper - Short paper (25%) - Learn more

Unit provided by

2017 Fees
Domestic 793.00
HECS 793.00
International 1,043.00

This unit was previously known as PHI210 Practical Ethics.

Please note: This unit is available in Macquarie Semester 3. This is an intensive semester which spans only 9 weeks (including recess). Students are advised to enrol in only one or two units in Semester 3.

This unit focuses on a range of topics in applied ethics, starting with ethics in the personal sphere and expanding the sphere of moral concern outwards to include those with whom we are not in a personal relationship and also non-human animals and the environment. We consider ethical questions to do with abortion, marriage, children's rights, suicide and euthanasia; questions of what we owe to those less well off than ourselves (e.g. those in poverty, refugees and asylum seekers); and ethical issues in the breakdown of moral relations (e.g. war, terrorism, torture and punishment). Discussion of the different topics is structured around key concepts, themes and questions including personhood, harm, and justice. What are the criteria for personhood, and are these criteria relevant to the morality of abortion or euthanasia? The duty to minimize harm is an important ethical principle. But what is the nature of harm? And under what circumstances (if any) might causing harm be justified? Is there such a thing as a just war? Is terrorism ever justifiable? The unit aims to encourage deep intellectual and also personal reflection on the complex ethical issues raised by such questions and to introduce students to the different positions and arguments within the relevant philosophical debates.

At the completion of this unit students will have developed:

  1. an ability to recognize and describe key theories in philosophical ethics
  2. skills in applying these theories to the ethical issues discussed in class and beyond
  3. the ability to develop well defended ethical arguments, rather than relying on intuitions or emotional reactions
  4. skills in evaluating the relative merits of competing ethical arguments, whilst appreciating that ethical conflicts are often inevitable and sometimes insoluble
  5. the ability to reflect on and critically interrogate the values you have and how they influence you as a person, student, and future professional.
  • Essay (30%)
  • Paper — Short paper (25%)
  • Participation (15%)
  • Reflective Task (30%)

Equivalent units

You cannot enrol in this unit if you have successfully completed any of the following unit(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:

  • PHI210 — Practical Ethics

You must complete some Level 1 studies before starting this unit. Prior study in Philosophy is recommended.

This unit addresses the following topics.

2Part 1: Introduction to course and ethical reasoning
3Part 1: Abortion
4Part 1: Marriage, family, parenting
5Part 1: Death: (a) Suicide (b) Euthanasia
7Part 2: What we owe to those less fortunate: (a) Poverty (b) Refugees and asylum seekers
8Part 2: Non-human animals
9Part 2: The environment
11Part 3: War and Humanitarian Intervention
12Part 3: Torture
13Part 3: Punishment and capital punishment

This unit is delivered using the following methods and materials:

Instructional Methods

  • Discussion Forum/Discussion Board
  • Online assignment submission
  • Standard Media
  • Web links

Online materials

  • Printable format materials
  • Resources and Links

This unit is an approved elective in the following courses:

This unit may be eligible for credit towards other courses:

  1. Many undergraduate courses on offer through OUA include 'open elective' where any OUA unit can be credited to the course. You need to check the Award Requirements on the course page for the number of allowed open electives and any level limitations.
  2. In other cases, the content of this unit might be relevant to a course on offer through OUA or elsewhere. In order to receive credit for this unit in the course you will need to supply the provider institution with a copy of the Unit Profile in the approved format, which you can download here. Note that the Unit Profile is set at the start of the year, and if textbooks change this may not match the Co-Op textbook list.
This unit does not have a prescribed textbook(s).

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