PP3MOA-The Morality of Abortion

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Prof Philip Stratton-Lake

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

Type of module:

Summary module description:

In this module we will look at both sides of the debate about the morality of abortion. We will consider different approaches to the issue, eg., rights based, value based, reasons based, feminist arguments, etc, read the main literature for each approach, and assess the various arguments. Authors to be considered will typically include Thomson, Singer, Dworkin, Tooley, and Marquis.

Assessing these various argument will take us into various more general issues, such as what makes it wrong to kill adult humans, the conditions of having rights, as well as issues outside of moral philosophy that are relevant to this debate, such as the nature of personhood, personal identity, the identity conditions of organisms, philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, and metaphysics.


In this module, you will acquire an thorough understanding of what is at issue in the debate about the morality of abortion. Whilst this module does not have any pre-requisites, it will build your studies at Parts 1 and 2, by drawing on your knowledge of topics in ethics and philosophy of mind.

Assessable learning outcomes:

You will acquire a good knowledge of the main views and arguments in the abortion debate. You will be able to assess these arguments in order to come to a reasoned conclusion on this debate, and appreciate the force of the different lines of argument. You will also acquire knowledge of wider philosophical relevance both in ethics, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics, and will see how these relate to the abortion debate.

You will have to write two essays for this module in which you will focus on some specific issue or philosopher. In these essays you will demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the relevant literature, your ability to explain this clearly and systematically, and to assess the various arguments and objections in a fair and reasoned manner.


Additional outcomes:

You will be able to organise your time between this and the various other modules you are taking so that you come prepared to lectures and seminars, and leave yourself enough time to write your essay. In a debate where often feelings run high on both sides, you will acquire the ability to approach these issues in a rational manner, giving due weight to opposing arguments, and due respect for those proposing those arguments.

Outline content:

Topics covered in this module will include rights-based argument, value based arguments, and reasons based arguments for and against the permissibility of abortion. You will also learn about the strengths and weaknesses of some of the leading accounts of personal identity, and some metaphysical views where relevant to the topic.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module will be taught by a two-hour lecture, and a one hour seminar in which the topic of the lecture can be discussed. Professor Stratton-Lake will also be available outside of class to discuss any issues that arise, that were not discussed in class.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 40
    Wider reading (directed) 15
    Advance preparation for classes 10
    Preparation for seminars 30
    Completion of formative assessment tasks 50
    Essay preparation 20
    Reflection 5
Total hours by term 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

The summative assessments consist of 2 x coursework assignments worth 35% and 65%

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Support Centres 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 (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: 3 November 2020


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