PHIL 2032 - Naturalising Morality: Evolution, Ethics & Meaning

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2018

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 2
    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 I Arts courses 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

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 2, 3
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    4, 5, 6
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    4, 5, 6
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • Able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    4, 5, 6
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    4, 5, 6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    Required Resources

    Worhshop readings and questions will be made available on MyUni the week proceeding the workshop.

    The workshop will be recorded and will be available on MyUni immediately after the workshop.
    Recommended Resources

    Flanagan, O. (2002) The Problem of the Soul (New York, Basic Books)
    Haidt, J. (2012) The Righteous Mind (Pantheon)
    Harris, S. (2010) The Moral Landscape (New York, Free Press)
    Thagard, P. (2010) The Brain and the Meaning of Life. (Princeton University Press)
    Tiberius, V. (2014) Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge)
    Online Learning

    Lecture notes will be made available on MyUni each week, and the lectures will be recorded. To prepare for workshops, you are required to answer a set of workshop questions. These will be made available on MyUni in the week preceding the workshop.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Ths course will be taught each week by a two hour lecture and a one hour workshop.
    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 x 12 hours per week) = 144 hours over the whole semester.

     
     
    1 x 2 hour lecture per week
     
    1 x 1 hour workshop per week
     
    3 hours revision per week
     
    3 hours tutorial preparation per week
      
    3 hours assessment work (essay and exam preparation)
     
     
    Total per week

    12 hours
    Learning Activities Summary

    No information currently available.

  • 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

    This course is assessed by 2 x 2500 word essays, each worth 50% of the final mark.
    Assessment Detail
    The first essay will be due approximately half way through the semester and the essay questions will be drawn from topics in the first half of the course.

    The second essay will be due at the end of the semester and the essay questions will be drawn from topics in the second half of the course.
    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
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