History of Moral and Political Philosophy PHIL4017

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Although there are many seminal texts in the history of moral and political philosophy, students often only encounter isolated sections of these in the context of 21st century theories. This course will introduce students to the close study of some major texts in the history of moral and political philosophy. The course will contextualise these texts in terms of the major intellectual and philosophical movements of their time.


16x1 hr lectures, 4x1 hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the senior honours options in Philosophy. It may not run every year. Options running this year are available on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into Philosophy, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes.

Excluded Courses





Exam (2 hour duration) - 60%

Essay (2000 words) - 40%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ introduce students to historical attempts to provide a unified theory of the content and normativity of morality, by considering a number of historically significant attempts to provide such a theory; 

■ appreciate how moral philosophy has developed; 

■ engage with significant theses in the history of moral philosophy. 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will be able to:


■ Explain what it means to provide an account of the content and normativity of ethics in a philosophically unified way, and explain the difficulties of doing so;

■ Critically evaluate influential theories such as Voluntarism, Sentimentalism, Rationalism, and Intuitionism;

■ Understand and explain the main theses from historical texts in ethics and political philosophy;

■ Reconstruct charitably and evaluate critically arguments from historical texts;

■ Relate material covered in the course to contemporary normative and metaethical debates, e.g., naturalism vs. non-naturalism and consequentialism vs. non-consequentialism.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.