PP3EI-Ethical Intuitionism

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

Module Convenor: Prof Philip Stratton-Lake

Email: p.j.stratton-lake@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to the main theses of Ethical Intuitionism. Ethical intuitionism is a school of philosophy that is typically characterised by three views. First, Intuitionists believe that basic moral propositions are self-evident in the sense that their truth can be seen through an adequate understanding of them. Second, Intuitionists are non-naturalist realists, i.e., they believe that moral judgements are made true by certain non-natural moral facts. Third, Intuitionists tend to be pluralists about the right, i.e., they think that there is an irreducible plurality of basic moral principles.


Drawing on the research expertise within Reading Philosophy Department we will focus on one or more of the key figures in this tradition, which may include Samuel Clarke, Richard Price, Henry Sidgwick, G. E. Moore, H. A. Prichard, W. D. Ross, and A. C. Ewing.


This module develops skills and knowledge acquired in previous years by studying the relevant philosophical issues and figures in more detail, and drawing on current research expertise within the department. By a careful, and impartial assessment of these views students will come to acquire a deep appreciation of what we can learn from the intuitionist tradition, and of how it enhances our understanding of value and our knowledge of it.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the main intuitionist view, and of some of the man theses of Ethical Intuitionism. They will also have a reasoned and fair assessment of these views. This will involve developing skills and knowledge already acquired in moral philosophy, metaphysics, and epistemology during the first two years of study.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Questions covered on the module will typically include:

  • Which, if any, of our moral beliefs are justified?

  • In what way are moral beliefs justified?

  • Does this justification amount to knowledge in any cases?

  • How must the world be for any moral beliefs to be true?

  • If the world contained nothing but natural facts and properties, could anything be of value?

  • Does moral truth require the existence of non-natural properties and facts?

  • Can all moral truths be grounded in a single moral principle?

  • If not, how many basic principles are there and what are they?

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: 31 March 2017

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