PP3CCC-Contemporary Consequentialism and Contractualism

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Aart Van Gils

Email: aart.vangils@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module considers state-of-the-art discussions of two kinds of moral theory—consequentialism and contractualism.


This module will offer students the opportunity to assess influential contemporary contractualist and consequentialist accounts of morality. Developments during the last twenty years will be the focus. An overall appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of these multi-levelled moral theories should result. These moral theories will be investigated in much greater depth than in any Pt.2 module. The module also aims to develop students’ writing skills and their ability to make oral presentations.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will develop their ability to understand and assess very abstract but comprehensive philosophical theories, in this case about morality. A nuanced understanding of ambitious theories and their replies to objections is one aim. Another is an accurate and carefully reasoning assessment of the relative plausibility of these theories. Students’ reasoning skills, presentational skills, and writing skills will be enhanced.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include: the question of why seek to find a moral theory at all, how consequentialist theories can remain simple by dismissing objections or complicate themselves by trying accommodate objections, which of the ways of complicating consequentialism is most plausible, what is supposed to be the foundation of contractualism, how contractualist structures can parallel consequentialist ones, and where the remaining points of dispute reside.

Global context:

Consequentialism typically aspires to global concern, and leading contemporary contractualist theories are similarly global in scope. But questions of cultural relativity will be addressed.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The essay assignment will be due on the Friday of week 11 this Autumn term. In addition, students will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion in each seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class. Some classes may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August/September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 1 October 2018


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