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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Postgraduate Course: Environmental Ethics MSc (PHIL11236)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis is a course about the ethical questions arising out of the distinctive relation human beings have to the natural environment.

Shared with the undergraduate course Environmental Ethics PHIL10147

For courses co-taught with undergraduate students and with no remaining undergraduate spaces left, a maximum of 8 MSc students can join the course. Priority will be given to MSc students who wish to take the course for credit on a first come first served basis after matriculation.
Course description This course examines some of the central theoretical and practical ethical questions arising out of the distinctive relation human beings have to the natural environment. The first half of the course will focus on theoretical topics, such as (nonexhaustive list): (i) how we should reason under uncertainty in long timescales, (ii) the nature and appropriate distribution of what's valuable, (iii) Parfit's 'non-identity problem' and 'repugnant conclusion', (iv) externalities, multi-generational prisoner's dilemmas, and tragedies of the commons, (v) the moral considerability of the Land, etc. The second half of the course will explore a variety of practical topics raised by environmental ethics, such as (nonexhaustive list): (i) carbon offsetting, (ii) direct action, (iii) cap and trade, (iv) geopolitical processes such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (v) population control, (vi) food issues like genetically engineered crops and vegetarianism, (vii) the discount rates to use in economic models of the costs and benefits of mitigating climate change, etc.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 30% Two in-class assessments to assess the students' understanding of the key concepts necessary for addressing larger philosophical questions
10% Tutorial Presentations (the course organiser will confirm exact dates)
60% Final Essay (2,500 words)
Word limit: 2500 words maximum (excluding references)
Feedback - Informal discussion of essay writing and topics
- Students have the opportunity to submit a formative essay by week 6 deadline on Turnitin via Learn. The essay cannot be draft of summative essay but it can be on the same topic.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. understand more foundational issues in ethical theory.
  2. exercise increased familiarity with some of the specific ethical issues raised by humans┬┐ relationship to nature.
  3. better defend a philosophically controversial position than previously.
  4. better read and discuss (both orally and in written work) complex theoretical and practical topics in a critically engaged way
Reading List
Here is an indicative and incomplete list (to be modified in line with particular topics taught each year):

John Broome, Climate Matters 2012, chs. 3-6 [Economics, Justice & Fairness, Private Morality, Goodness]
Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons 1984, chs. 16-17 [The Non-Identity Problem, The Repugnant Conclusion]
Gregory Kavka, 'The Paradox of Future Individuals' Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 11 (Spring 1982), pp. 93-112
Nicolas Stern, 'Executive Summary of the Stern Review' URL=
William Nordhaus, 'A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change', Journal of Economic Literature, vol. XLV (September 2007), pp. 686-702
Mathew Humphrey, 'Democratic Legitimacy, Public Justification and Environmental Direct Action', Political Studies, vol. 54 (2006) pp. 310-327
Peter Singer, 'One Atmosphere', from his One World: The Ethics of Globalization 2002.
Dale Jamieson, 'Ethics, Public Policy, and Global Warming' Science, Technology, Human Values vol. 17 (1992), pp. 139-153.
Stephen Gardiner, 'A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics, and the Problem pf Moral Corruption', Environmental Values, vol. 15 (2006), pp. 397-413.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Ability to critically analyse philosophical argument involving scientific data
- Knowledge of key scientific and philosophical issues arising from climate change
- Ability to write clearly and cogently about a complex topic
KeywordsClimate Change,Future Generations,Tragedy of the Commons
Course organiserDr Quan Nguyen
Course secretaryMrs Ida Conlin
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