Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

PHIL103 Ethical Issues

Theories about the status of moral claims (relativism, subjectivism, egoism, utilitarianism, etc.). The rights and wrongs of specific issues (abortion, the environment, pacifism, etc.).

We cannot avoid causing deaths. We can only save some lives. We want to respect rights, but what if doing so requires us to harm some people? We look at a range of theories that attempt to account for right and wrong action, including Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue Ethics. In the second half we examine some particular, pressing moral issues, such as euthanasia, abortion, animal welfare, the rights of states to punish, free speech, poverty, and drug use. We attempt to understand influential arguments on the issues, to discuss them productively, and to improve them.

Paper title Ethical Issues
Paper code PHIL103
Subject Philosophy
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

^ Top of page

Schedule C
Arts and Music
This paper is open to all students.

Teaching staff

Professor Michael LeBuffe and Associate Professor Heather Dyke

Paper Structure

In the first half of the course we survey a range of theories of morality, exploring their implications by way of examples, and assessing their advantages and disadvantages. In the second half of the course we turn to an examination of a range of real and pressing ethical issues. Lectures introduce influential arguments and philosophical resources for evaluating issues. Tutorials emphasise student argument and participation.


  • One in-class test 15%
  • One 1,500-word essay 15%
  • Tutorial exercises 10%
  • One 3-hour examination 60%
Teaching Arrangements

There will be two 50-minute lectures and one tutorial session per week. Lectures include material not covered in the readings as well as substantive discussion. Tutorials focus on student argument and include exercises meant to illuminate the readings. When PHIL 103 is offered at Summer School, the assessment weightings and teaching sessions alter to suit that format.


Piers Benn, 'Ethics' (Routledge, 1998).

Supplementary readings will be made available via Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper can be expected to:

  • Know how to construct defensible ethical arguments
  • Identify the main schools of thought in ethics
  • Apply different ethical arguments to a wide range of ethical issues
  • Disagree productively and congenially about sensitive subjects

^ Top of page


Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 12:00-12:50 28-34, 36-41
Friday 12:00-12:50 29-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 29-34, 36-41
A2 Tuesday 15:00-15:50 29-34, 36-41
A3 Wednesday 15:00-15:50 29-34, 36-41
A4 Thursday 11:00-11:50 29-34, 36-41
A5 Thursday 13:00-13:50 29-34, 36-41
A6 Thursday 14:00-14:50 29-34, 36-41
A7 Thursday 16:00-16:50 29-34, 36-41
A8 Friday 11:00-11:50 29-34, 36-41