PHIL 2032 - Naturalising Morality: Evolution, Ethics & Meaning

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2016

The course information on this page is being finalised for 2016. Please check again before classes commence.

Modern science gives us a stark way of understanding human nature and the place of human beings in the natural world. We are animals who have evolved to be as we are through natural processes. We live in a world that is not structured for our benefit. And yet, despite this scientific world view, we strive to find meaning and purpose in life. We judge some forms of behaviour right while others are wrong. We think some things really matter. This course considers whether these two perspectives can be reconciled: Is there a naturalistic foundation for ethics, values and even the meaningfulness of life? This course will explore this question by examining evolutionary psychology, the cognitive science of human emotions, and the so-called "new science of morality". In doing so it will confront contentious debates such as the respective roles of genes and culture in making us the way we are, whether it is appropriate to employ new technologies to engineer human happiness, and whether moral responsibility can survive the encroachments of neuroscience.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PHIL 2032
    Course Naturalising Morality: Evolution, Ethics & Meaning
    Coordinating Unit Philosophy
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 12 units of level 1 ARTS including 3 units of Philosophy OR 12 units of Biological Sciences or Medicine
    Incompatible PHIL 2005 or PHIL 3005
    Course Description Modern science gives us a stark way of understanding human nature and the place of human beings in the natural world. We are animals who have evolved to be as we are through natural processes. We live in a world that is not structured for our benefit. And yet, despite this scientific world view, we strive to find meaning and purpose in life. We judge some forms of behaviour right while others are wrong. We think some things really matter. This course considers whether these two perspectives can be reconciled: Is there a naturalistic foundation for ethics, values and even the meaningfulness of life?

    This course will explore this question by examining evolutionary psychology, the cognitive science of human emotions, and the so-called "new science of morality". In doing so it will confront contentious debates such as the respective roles of genes and culture in making us the way we are, whether it is appropriate to employ new technologies to engineer human happiness, and whether moral responsibility can survive the encroachments of neuroscience.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Gerard O'Brien

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    This course aims to

    1. Introduce students to central problems in the project of naturalising morality,
    2. Develop an understanding of related topics in moral prhilosophy, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology and neuroscience

    After successfully completing this course, students should:

    1. Be aware of the main philosophical positions regarding the project of naturalising morality
    2. Have experience in analyzing and critiquing written arguments.
    3. Show improvement in problem solving and critical reasoning skills.
    4. Be able to discuss and debate philosophical issues in a group setting.
    University Graduate Attributes

    No information currently available.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    Required Resources

    Tutorial readings and reading lists will be made available on MyUni.

    Lecture notes will be made available on MyUni each week, and the lectures will be recorded. To prepare for tutorials, you are required to answer a set of tutorial questions. These will be made available on MyUni in the week preceding the tutorial.
    Recommended Resources

    Flanagan, O. (2002) The Problem of the Soul (New York, Basic Books)
    Harris, S. (2010) The Moral Landscape (New York, Free Press)
    Pinker, S. (2011) The Better Angels of Our Nature (London, Allen Lane)
    Stanovich, K. (2004) The Robot’s Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).
    Thagard, P. (2010) The Brain and the Meaning of Life. (Princeton, Princeton University Press)
    Wright, R. (1996) The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life (London, Abacus)
    Online Learning

    Lecture notes will be made available on MyUni each week, and the lectures will be recorded. To prepare for tutorials, you are required to answer a set of tutorial questions. These will be made available on MyUni in the week preceding the tutorial.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    No information currently available.

    Workload

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The information below is a guide to the average number of hours per week you should spend on this course.

    The total is (12 weeks x12 hours per week) = 144 hours over the whole semester.  

    1 x 2 hour lecture per week 
    1 hour tutorial per week 
    3 hours revision per week 
    3 hours tutorial preparation per week
    3 hours assessment work (essay preparation) 
     
    Total per week 12 hours
    Learning Activities Summary

    No information currently available.

    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Small group discovery experience will take place in tutorials in weeks 5 and 10.

    It will involve textual analysis and group work based on key concepts
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Essay 1    Summative    20%
    Essay 2    Summative    40%
    Essay 3    Summative    40%
    Tutorials   Formative      Unweighted
    Assessment Detail
    The assessment will involve one short essay, and two longer essays.

    Essay 1 (1000 words). Choose one question, to be provided.
    Essay 2 (2000 words). Choose one question, to be provided.
    Essay 3 (2000 words). Choose one question, to be provided.
    Submission
    The essays will be submitted electronically via MyUni.

    Details of the submission process will be provided with the essay questions.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

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