Department of Political Science


Global Ethics

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Helen Brown Coverdale (Department of Political Science)


One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

This course critically examines some of the most pressing ethical questions (questions concerning what we ought morally to do) arising in the contemporary international arena. Focusing on recent debates in global justice and political theory, the course introduces students to a range of views on the scope of moral duties that exist between states and individuals at the global level, and critically examines key normative challenges that arise from the global political interaction between states, international governmental organizations, NGOS and other key players.

The course is divided into three parts:

I) Approaches to global justice: examining key perspectives on the nature and scope of global justice (cosmopolitanism, statism, realism, utilitarianism)

II) Legitimacy and representation: examining normative challenges concerning the structure and function of international agents like IGOs and NGOs.

III) Ethics and Global Governance: examining ethical challenges that arise within various global governance regimes: immigration, climate change, international trade and the international use of force.

Course aims

This is a course in normative political theory. It aims to familiarise students with the contemporary literature on global ethics, and to enable them to engage in sophisticated normative debates about important matters of international concern.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students should:

  • have a clear grasp of the contemporary philosophical literature on the main ethical dilemmas arising in the international arena
  • be able to construct sustained normative arguments about issues such as global poverty, humanitarian intervention, climate change, global democracy etc., and be able to defend them against opposing arguments and perspectives
  • be able to make links between theoretical ideas and empirical information in areas of global ethical concern.