Course Code: PUBLG037
Course Tutors: Dr Jeffrey Howard (Department of Political Science)
Assessment: One 3,000 word essay
Credit Value: 15
About this course
Should murderers be executed? Should cocaine and heroin be legalised? Should hate speech be banned? Is torture of suspected terrorists ever justified? Is it wrong for police to engage in racial profiling? Is bulk data collection an unwarranted violation of our privacy? Should citizens be legally required to vote? When is it permissible—or even required—to engage in violence against the government? Are soldiers to blame for fighting in unjust wars? This module will give students an opportunity to make up their minds about these and other questions in an intellectual search for the moral principles that ought to govern our public lives. We will read and argue with each other about important work in contemporary political and legal philosophy, applying what we learn to pressing moral controversies in democratic politics.
The module aims to expose students to a variety of scholarly debates about the moral principles that ought to govern different areas of law and policy-making, and about the ethically proper conduct of elected officials, government agents, and ordinary citizens. 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 moral debates about government. 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.