Ethics and Public Policy

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 17 January 2022
Friday 25 March 2022
01 September 2021


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

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.


  • Velleman, David. (1992) 'Against the Right to Die', in Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. vol. 17 (6) , pp.665-681
  • Jeff McMahan. (2008) 'Torture in Principle and in Practice', in Public Affairs Quarterly. vol. 22 (2) , pp.91-108
  • 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
  • Waldron, Jeremy. (2010) Torture, terror, and trade-offs: philosophy for the White House, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Thomson, Judith Jarvis. (1999) 'Physician-Assisted Suicide: Two Moral Arguments', in Ethics. vol. 109 (3) , pp.497-518
  • Judith Jarvis Thomson. (1971) 'A Defense of Abortion', in Philosophy & Public Affairs. vol. 1 (1) , pp.47-66
  • Rae Langton. (1993) 'Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts', in Philosophy & Public Affairs: Wiley. vol. 22, pp.293-330
  • Elizabeth S. Anderson. (1990) 'Is Women's Labor a Commodity?', in Philosophy & Public Affairs. vol. 19 (1) , pp.71-92
  • 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
  • Singer, Peter. (1995) Animal liberation, London: Pimlico.
  • Wolff, Jonathan. (2011) Ethics and public policy: a philosophical inquiry, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Shue, Henry. (2005) 'Torture in Dreamland: Disposing of the Ticking Bomb', in Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law. vol. 37, pp.231-239

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  25/02/2022  65% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Laura Montanaro, email: lmonta@essex.ac.uk.
Module Supervisor: Laura Montanaro lmonta@essex.ac.uk / Module Administrator: Edmund Walker - govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 5103 hours, 126 (2.5%) hours available to students:
4977 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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