PP3EET-Environmental Ethics

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Elaine Beadle

Email: e.a.beadle@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to a new area of practical philosophy and a range of philosophical questions raised by environmental issues some of which present challenges to established positions covered in Pt.2. The module is inclusive beyond the limits of duties to other humans and global in its perspective.


This module will consider whether other sentient and living beings have moral value independent of their instrumental value for humans. Whether we have moral duties not just to individuals but to species and ecosystems. The key positions of anthropocentrism (only human life has intrinsic moral value) and biocentrism (nature has its own intrinsic value and is a source of direct moral duties) will be explored and evaluated.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain knowledge and understanding of the positions taken by contemporary environmental philosophers and of the arguments that support and challenge those positions. They will be able contribute to debate and to form and defend positions of their own.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:

  • Anthropocentrism and rational self-interest

  • Biocentrism: the value of sentient non-humans, living organisms, species and ecosystems

  • Arguments for the preservation of ‘wilderness’

  • The aesthetic value of nature and E.O.Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis

  • Philosophical problems of restoring damaged nature

  • Expansion of global human population and sustainability

  • Sustainability and the economic and ecological effects of globalisation in the developing world

  • Paul Taylor: Respect for Nature. A new framework of environmental moral principle.

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 in week 5 of the Summer 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

Other information on summative assessment:

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 Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (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.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 3 November 2017

    Things to do now