Ethics and Public Policy

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
04 October 2018


Requisites for this module



Key module for

DIPLL20009 Politics

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

The module aims to expose students to a variety of scholarly debates about the moral principles that govern different areas of law and policy-making.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to explain and appraise the arguments on different sides of a wide range of controversial political topics. The module's further objectives are to develop students' capacities for critical reasoning: for understanding and explaining arguments, identifying weaknesses and articulating objections to arguments, and offering constructive criticism about how to make arguments better. The module will also develop students' skills in oral argumentation, strengthening their capacities to articulate their positions on complicated questions and defend them with confidence in front of their colleagues.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

The module will feature an hour of lecture per week and an hour of class per week. The lecture will be largely interactive, so students should come having done the readings and prepared to participate.


  • 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   Essay    65% 
Coursework   Online Quiz    35% 

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 Christensen, james.christensen@essex.ac.uk Module Administrator: Sallyann West, 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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