PIM88-Public Ethics

Module Provider: Graduate Institute for Politics and Internat Studs
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Patrick Tomlin

Email: p.r.tomlin@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This team-taught module explores the ethical dimensions of politics. It will focus both on questions about the morality of individual political actors, who may be expected and even required to breach otherwise binding moral norms, and on the ethical assessment of particular public policies, such as for example the use of choice architecture to promote independently desirable outcomes.


To provide students with an overview of the main forms of normative evaluation of public policy and the actors that implement it, and to develop their ability to critically apply them to the analysis of a number of cases.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the course, students should have attained:

•    A clear grasp of certain key concepts and theories in applied moral and political theory;

•    Knowledge of some of the main theoretical debates surrounding the moral appraisal of public policy making and the actors involved in it;

•    An ability to construct theoretically-informed and empirically-backed normative arguments to the analysis of specific case studies.


Additional outcomes:

The module aims to develop the capacity for independent study, both individually and as part of a team; the ability to think critically about political problems and theories and to be sensitive to the complexities and ambiguities of difficult texts; the skill of presenting the findings of such study and critical thought in group and individual presentations; and to contribute to oral discussions. 

Outline content:

The module addresses such issues as the use of violence and official secrecy, the morality of lying, the dangers of hypocrisy, the necessity of compromise, the permissibility of protest, the moral limits of the market, the distribution of heath care, the provision of education, and the regulation of the workplace. Below is an indicative list of topics.

1. Ethics and Public Ethics 

2. Torture and Dirty Hands 

3. Deception 

4. Resistance 

5. Profiling 

6. Health and the distribution of healthcare 

7. Markets and their limits 

8. Education and parental authority 

9. Expertise 

10. Nudging

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught through two hour seminars with two political theorists, Dr Patrick Tomlin and Dr Robert Jubb. They will introduce topics before using a variety of student presentations, structured discussions and group exercises to explore them in further detail. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 12 8
Guided independent study 108 72
Total hours by term 120.00 80.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

This module is assessed by means of coursework only.

You must write 2 3,000 word essays, one due over the break at the end of the first term and the other at the end of the second.

Formative assessment methods:

Presentations in seminars. 

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:

If a student fails the year and is permitted to resit this module coursework which already bears a confirmed mark of 50% or more will be carried forward. 

Students can resubmit coursework by 1st August which must be emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, and submitted on Blackboard.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 5 July 2017

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