Ethics and Public Policy

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA LV25 Philosophy and Politics,
BA LV26 Philosophy and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA LV2H Philosophy and Politics (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA LV2M Philosophy and Politics (Including Year Abroad),
BA LV8M Philosophy and Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA 0A56 Political Theory and Public Policy (Including Year Abroad),
BA 7L29 Political Theory and Public Policy,
BA 7L30 Political Theory and Public Policy (Including Placement Year),
BA L219 Politics with Human Rights (Including Placement Year),
BA L2M8 Politics with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA L2M9 Politics with Human Rights,
BA LFM9 Politics with Human Rights (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL23 Sociology and Politics (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL24 Sociology and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA LL32 Sociology and Politics,
BA P580 Journalism and Politics,
BA P581 Journalism and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA P582 Journalism and Politics (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

Should murderers be executed? Should cocaine and heroin be legalized? Is torture ever morally justified? Is abortion morally wrong? Should pornography be banned? Should prostitution be legal? Are laws permitting the slaughter of animals unjust? This module assesses these and other questions in an intellectual search for the moral principles that ought to govern public policy.

Module aims

1. To introduce you to, and to stimulate your interest in, the study of ethics and public policy.

2. To equip you with an understanding of the relevance of theoretical debates about ethicsto public policy controversies.

3. To encourage you to question your own beliefs about what ethical public policy requires.

Module learning outcomes

1. To understand the nature of ethical argumentation and its value to the study of politics.

2. To engage in clear verbal and written normative argumentation. You will acquire a greater confidence and ability to express your ethical beliefs.

3. To scrutinise arguments made by politicians and other prominent figures in the media about ethics and public policy.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered with (i) a weekly pre-recorded lecture and (ii) a weekly interactive lecture. The interactive lecture will consist of one 50-minute lecture in which students can ask questions about, and discuss various aspects of, the pre-recorded lecture and the assigned readings with the module supervisor.


  • Ben Juratowitch. (2008) 'Torture Is Always Wrong', in Public Affairs Quarterly. vol. 22 (2) , pp.81-90
  • Jeffrey H. Reiman. (1985) 'Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty: Answering van den Haag', in Philosophy & Public Affairs. vol. 14 (2) , pp.115-148
  • Elizabeth S. Anderson. (1990) 'Is Women's Labor a Commodity?', in Philosophy & Public Affairs. vol. 19 (1) , pp.71-92
  • Martha C. Nussbaum. (1998) '“Whether From Reason Or Prejudice”: Taking Money For Bodily Services', in The Journal of Legal Studies: The University of Chicago Press. vol. 27, pp.693-723
  • Shue, Henry. (2005) 'Torture in Dreamland: Disposing of the Ticking Bomb', in Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law. vol. 37, pp.231-239
  • Rogers, Joel. (c2001) 'A Basic Income for All', in What's wrong with a free lunch?, Boston, Mass: Beacon Press.
  • Velleman, David. (1992) 'Against the Right to Die', in Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. vol. 17 (6) , pp.665-681
  • Waldron, Jeremy. (2010) Torture, terror, and trade-offs: philosophy for the White House, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Rae Langton. (1993) 'Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts', in Philosophy & Public Affairs: Wiley. vol. 22, pp.293-330
  • Jeff McMahan. (2008) 'Torture in Principle and in Practice', in Public Affairs Quarterly. vol. 22 (2) , pp.91-108
  • Judith Jarvis Thomson. (1971) 'A Defense of Abortion', in Philosophy & Public Affairs. vol. 1 (1) , pp.47-66
  • Wolff, Jonathan. (2011) Ethics and public policy: a philosophical inquiry, Abingdon: Routledge.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Online Quiz    35% 
Coursework   Essay    65% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr James Christensen, email: james.christensen@essex.ac.uk.
Dr James Christensen
Module Supervisor: Dr James Christensen - james.christensen@essex.ac.uk / Module Administrator: Lewis Olley - govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Arzu Kibris
University of Warwick
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 82 hours, 55 (67.1%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
27 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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